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MUCH confusion exists at the present time as to the 
artistic essentials of a modern house. A great deal has 
been written perhaps more has been said about this 
subject, and still it is vague to most of us. This vague- 
ness is partly because we have not realized fully that a 
house is but the normal expression of one's intellectual 
concept of fitness and his aesthetic ideal of what is beau- 

The house is but the externalized man; himself ex- 
pressed in colour, form, line and texture. To be sure, he 
is usually limited in means, hampered by a contrary and 
penurious landlord or by family heirlooms, and often he 
cannot find just what he wants in the trade; but still the 
house is his house. It is he, 

Another reason for this vagueness is the extreme 
difficulty of parting with traditions. We all deplore this 
reluctance in others and then embrace our individual 
traditions the more closely. The first we must dispel 
are those concerning art; then we must try to find out 
what art really is. Another quite as necessary to over- 
come is the generally accepted idea that one must learn 
all he knows of colour, form and texture through "feel- 
ing." This doctrine has for generations kept the con- 
sciousness of thousands of people closed to the simplest 
principles of the language structure of colour and form. 
Being free of these misleading traditional beliefs, the 



way is open for learning to do what is not only essential, 
but natural. 

The periods, too, have been treated as strange and in- 
comprehensible, too deep and mysterious for anything 
but unquestioning admiration and slavish copy. The 
decorative idea is so completely hidden by the belief 
in and admiration for ornamental show, that the Baroque 
idea is the only one generally considered as decorative 
at all. 

These and other misconceptions are the reasons for 
this book. It is modestly hoped that it may be of service 
to somebody in pointing out what a house is really for 
and what it should express. It is designed also to make 
clear the essential qualities which are the life and soul of 
each of the decorative periods in history. 

More than anything else, perhaps, it attempts to ex- 
press simply the principles of colour and form harmony 
in such a way that any one, who desires to, may express 
with some degree of confidence his individual ideas. 
These ideas in terms of colour, form, line and texture 
form his ideal of interior decoration. 

Each of the illustrations submitted is an expression 
of some particular quality or qualities explained in the 
captions. The violation of other principles of arrange- 
ment in some cases detracts from the perfect unity of 
the room. Each illustration should be seen from this 
point of view also. 





When, Where, and How to Decorate 3 


L Colour and Its Relation to the Decorative Idea 17 

IL The Principles of Form and Their Relation to 

the Decorative Idea 56 

IIL Balance and Movement 78 

Iv - Emphasis and Unity . . . 88 

v - Scale, Motifs and Textures as They Relate to 

Furnishing and Decorating 97 


VL Historic Art Periods and the Ideas Which They 

Represent . 117 

VIL The French Renaissance and the French Styles 131 

VHI. The French Styles 145 

lx - The Regency and the Periods of Louis XV 

and XVI 154 

x - The Tudor Period The English Styles ... 170 

XI - The Stuart Period and the Dutch Influence . . 180 



ML The Dutch Influence, or the Period of Queen 

Anne 186 

XIH. The Period of Individual Creation Chippen- 
dale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Adam and other 
Georgian Types 195 

XIV - The Colonial Style 206 


xv - The Modern House 225 

XVL The Individual House 238 

XVIL Some Special Suggestions 

Choice, Framing and Hanging Pictures, Hanging 
Curtains, Methods of Lighting, Choice of Deco- 
rative Objects, General Placement . . . .251 

Index . 275 


A Modern Living-room in a Country House Frontispiece 


The Proper Use of Decorative Ornament in Strength- 
ening and Beautifying the Architectural Effects of 

Stairway and Windows 4 

The Wrong Use of Ornament Applying Without Pur- 
pose or Reason 6 

Doorway Which Illustrates Structural Emphasis by 

Ornament 8 

Doorway, Illustrating Over-emphasis of the Top by 

too Much Ornament v 8 

A Console Table, Good in Proportion 8 

A Commode 8 

Elevation Sketch of Simple Room in Which the Dec- 
orative Idea is Correctly Expressed .... 10 
Historic Room, Illustrating the Principles of Success- 
ful Wall Decoration and Consistent, Structural 
Unity in the Arrangement of Furniture ... 12 

A Descriptive Colour Chart 20 

A Modern Library Whose Walls and Ceiling are Class- 
ics of Their Type 24 

A Historic Room in the Style of Louis XVI .... 28 

A Historic Room in French Style 28 

Elevation Sketch in Black, White and One Colour . . 32 

Bedroom in Country Inn 36 

Elevation Suggesting Wall and Furniture Treatment 
for a Simple Dining-room in a Country House . 44 

Charming Feminine Sitting-room 48 




Man's Studio Living-room Arranged to Give the 
Effect of Simplicity, Quiet and Dignity Throughout . 52 

Two Areas Equal and Monotonous . . . [page] 75 

Two Areas Unrelated and Incomparable . . [page] 75 

Two Areas Subtle, Comparable and Interesting [page] 75 

Decorative Treatment, Expressing Simplicity, Dignity, 
Formality and Elegance 78 

Elevation Colour Sketch of Dining-Room Which 
Illustrates Subtle Relationships in Wall Spacing . 80 

Elevation Sketch for Young Girl's Bedroom ... 82 

An Italian Chair Whose Lines Create an Opposition 
in Movement 84 

A Chinese Chippendale Chair with Mixed Line Ar- 
rangements 84 

Rhythmic Line Movement Found in Contour of Chair 
Throughout 92 

Textile, Illustrating Rhythmic Movement Through- 
out the Pattern 9% 

Side Wall Elevation in Colour, with Excellent Back- 
ground Spacings 94 

Simple Side Wall Elevation, Expressing Good Scale 
Relations $6 

Formal, Bisymmetric Wall Treatment, Illustrating 
Rest, Formality and Simplicity 

Hallway and Dining-room in a Suburban House . . 

Living-room, Illustrating a Particularly Fine Sense of 
Scale Relations in Decorative Motifs .... 

Woman's Sitting-room in Modern Style . . . . 

A Modern Library Living-room 

An Early Sienese Gothic Madonna and Child . . . 

An Early Tapestry with the Gothic Spirit and a Dec- 
orative Quality Most Apparent 

A Painting Which Shows Plainly the Lingering Traces 
of Refinement 120 




A Painting Where the Appeal of the Saint Is One of 
Human Sentiment 120 

A Later Tapestry in Which the Humanistic Ideal Is 

Triumphant i . . . 120 

Sketch Showing the Early Italian Renaissance . . 134 

Later Italian Renaissance, Adapted in Lighter Scale to 
a Modern Hall 134 

Early Italian Room, Expressing Restraint and Strength 
of the Early Masculine Type 138 

Early English Room, Expressing a Distinctly Mascu- 
line Feeling 138 

A Beautiful Room in the Period of Louis XV . . . 160 

Sketch for a Modern Drawing-room in Louis XV and 
XVI Styles . , 164 

An Old English Cabinet Whose Material, Size and 
Structure Express the Qualities of the Elizabethan 
Period 176 

A Colonial Hall, Expressing the Qualities of Simplicity, 
Sincerity and Restraint . 208 

Suitable Bedroom for Two Boys 226 

Simple Bedroom Suitable for Guest's Chamber in 
Country House 226 

A Delightfully Simple Modern Bedroom with Feminine 
Touch, Expressing Qualities Essential to Rest and 
Sleep 226 

Man's Bedroom, Expressing Restfulness, Individuality 
and Masculine Quality 228 

Simple Elevation, Suggesting Wall and Furniture Treat- 
ment for Country Tearoom * . 228 

Sketch for Louis XTV Dining-room 230 

Modern Dining-room in a City Apartment, Express- 
ing Elegance, Dignity and Refinement . . . 230 

A Modern Dining-room, Showing the "Georgian and 

Chippendale Feeling" 232 




A Modern Living-room .234 

A Modern Library Whose Luxurious Decorative 

Charm Lies in Its Unity of Treatment ... 234 
A Modern Drawing-room in Which the Furniture 
shows Good Functional and Structural Arrange- 
ment 236 

Bedroom of Marie Antoinette, Little Trianon ... 236 

Bedroom of Louis XIV at Versailles 236 

Bed of Queen Elizabeth of England 236 

Simple Decorative Choice and Arrangement of Ma- 
terials 238 

Bedroom in Suburban House, Expressing Quaintness 

and a Charm of Decorative Arrangement . . . 238 
A Successful Adaptation of the Late Gothic and Ren- 
aissance in a Modern City House . . . . . 242 
A Young Man's Bedroom with Backgrounds of Wall 

Paper and Rug Expressing Restf ulness and Quiet . 244 
Another Corner of the Same Bedroom .... 244 
A Modern Dining-room Whose Strength Is Its Simplic- 
ity, Restfulness, Dignity and Consistency . . . 252 
A Modern Feminine Sitting-room, Restrained, Restful 

through Balance 252 

Man's Living-room and Library Showing the Success- 
ful Combination of Italian, French and English 
Materials . 254 

THE very term "interior decoration" is misleading, 
and is the cause of much of the bad interpretation of the 
decorative idea for which it stands. Love of beauty 
and the desire to create it is a primal instinct in man. 
The personal pride and pleasure one takes in his own 
house is too generally acknowledged to need comment. 
If, however, one desires to possess a so-called artistic 
house, the making of such a house involves an under- 
standing of certain principles. 

In the first place there are two quite distinct classes 
with whom one must deal : first that of the art connois- 
seur, or artist collector of antique objects. While every 
man of this type is individual, there are principles of 
choice and arrangement by which he must be governed, 
be his taste ever so fine. His room is a personal expres- 
sion of his taste in the combining of things with different 
meanings, but it is quite impossible for the rank and file 
of those who live in ordinary homes to appreciate such 
an expression. 

Because of this first class the general public has not 
grasped the difference between a museum or depart- 
ment-store collection of objects, such as furniture, 
hangings, carpets, etc., and a room in which to live. 
Only an artist can be trusted to attempt such house 



furnishing. By an artist I do not mean a man who 
paints pictures merely. I mean a man who possesses 
the art quality in such a degree that he may be able, 
not only to group art objects in any field, but also that 
he may have a sensitive appreciation of them in what- 
ever combination they may appear. 

The second class includes ninety-five per cent, of all 
people who use a house, and it is to them in particular 
that this book is given. 

We find among these a lack of the remotest conception 
of what decoration really is, for there are many ways in 
which this term may be, and is, misapplied. One person 
believes that ornament, pattern, or art objects placed 
anywhere, in any relation one to the other, must be deco- 
rative. Nothing is further from the truth. Be a thing 
ever so good, it may easily lose its charm through asso- 
ciation with the wrong things. Another person be- 
lieves that the more he buys and crowds his room with 
either new or expensive objects, the more decorative or 
decorated it becomes. This, too, is a fallacy. Not only 
is it not decorative to use too much or too many decora- 
tive things, but it prevents any one of the objects from 
having a decorative effect. Neither these things nor 
their cost, neither show, vogue, period, nor sentimental 
foolishness, are in the least concerned with an expression 
of the decorative idea. 

Decoration implies, first of all, something to decorate. 
By this we mean some definite form or arrangement 
to which decoration is to be applied, and a reason for 
applying it. It is not because I have a room that I 
rush to pile something onto or into it. It is because I 
need some things in certain places in this room. This 



necessitates additions of a certain kind to make the 
room fulfill its function, and to make it a beautiful unit 
when it is finished. The room is, first of all, to fulfill 
its function. This matter of function is fundamental 
in any applied art. The room, and most objects in the 
room, exist for use first. The quality of beauty is de- 
sirable and essential in fulfilling the highest ideal; but 
however beautiful the objects are, if the functional idea 
is not adequately and fully carried out, the art from the 
standpoint of house furnishing is but one-half expressed. 
Take, for example, a dining-room. The first question 
to be asked is: what is the dining-room for- that is, 
for what idea does a dining-room stand ? The only sensi- 
ble answer is: this room exists to eat in, and to eat in 
in peace. Any object found therein which detracts for 
any reason from this idea is not only a non-essential, but 
a preventive of the realization of its ideal. When I 
enter a dining-room I expect to see a table of such size, 
proportion, scale, and arrangement as will not only 
attract my aesthetic sense, but will also bid me sit and 
eat in comfort. The same quality should be felt in 
whatever is on the table; also in the chairs, the side- 
board, and other accessories essential to this room. If, 
however, on entering the room I find as the most promi- 
nent thing the embalmed head of an antique deer or a 
collection of stuffed birds, or other objects properly 
belonging to the Museum of Natural History, there is 
nothing present in these to bid me eat or permit me to do 
so in peace. A still more common and glaring failure to 
realize this functional idea is seen in the inordinate dis- 
play of silverware, cut glass, painted dishes, and other 
indiscriminate acquisitions of family life displayed upon 


sideboard, serving table, and plate rack, or even hung 
upon the walls as decorative objects. Not only is it in 
bad taste to display one's private collections to public 
gaze, but it suggests in this case that articles designed 
for use, and requiring cleanliness as their essential qual- 
ity, will need some personal attention before they can be 
placed upon the table, or used elsewhere. They are 
neither decorative nor related to the scheme of furnish- 
ing a dining-room. 

If the problem is a bedroom, I ask myself what is the 
bedroom for, and the answer comes: the bedroom is 
a place in which to rest and sleep. If this is what the 
room is for, anything in its furnishing and decoration 
that interferes materially with these two functions 
should be avoided. The bed, dressing-table, chair, 
toilet articles, etc., in this sequence, seem to be the es- 
sentials for such a room. Spotted wall papers, floral 
carpets, scattered photographs, and the like, create a 
series of stripes and spots that are not only ugly in 
their arrangement, but unrestful, undignified, and per- 
plexing in their effect. 

In the same way, the living-room is meant to live in. 
We associate with this room objects which one needs to 
have about him for comfort, use, companionship, and 
personal enjoyment. 

The drawing-room offers rather a problem of general 
use. It is the room in which not only friends but ac- 
quaintances and other guests make brief stays for pur- 
poses of formal social intercourse. Such things as 
stimulate conversation, arouse wit, and express one's 
general good taste belong in this room. 

It will be clearly seen that the problems of the dining- 



room, hotel corridor, the general reception room, etc., 
are individual ones. The dominating idea of function 
separates one from the other, and renders each case a 
problem for special consideration before taking up the 
question of decorative arrangement. 

In eliminating from rooms already furnished a suffi- 
cient number of articles to make a beginning possible, it 
is necessary to discuss one universal quality. Every 
one normally made has what he calls a sentiment for 
certain things. This sentiment is primarily, of course, 
supposed to apply to persons or their characteristics, but 
unfortunately it has been allowed to extend to all sorts 
of material objects, wedding gifts, family heirlooms, 
Christmas presents, bargain-sale effects, and other things 
with which nearly every home is filled. 

The first error to combat in this field is the one through 
which the object bequeathed by a relative is confused 
with the relative himself. Because one's uncle possessed 
a crayon portrait of himself, or a mahogany table ugly 
in line, bad in proportion, and disagreeable in colour, is 
no reason why these inartistic objects should be perpetu- 
ated in each generation until the family line is extinct. 
This same uncle be he ever so perfect in moral, 
spiritual, and even aesthetic qualities could not and 
would not wish to transfer the qualities of these objects 
to the consciousness of his descendants simply because, 
for some unknown reason, he used them while he was 
alive. The mahogany table and its qualities are quite 
apart from the qualities of the individual, and a person 
who connects these two or makes them one is not a man 
of sentiment, but one of sentimentality which is quite 
another matter. The same thing is true where gifts and 



other ugly acquired objects are indiscriminately cher- 
ished. The only possible excuse for keeping such things 
about is the lack of money to buy new ones and, even in 
that case, better nothing at all than bad things where 
good ones ought to be. 

Probably the most difficult thing for any person who 
truly desires an artistic home, is to acquire the courage 
to put forever out of sight those things which absolutely 
prevent the realization of his ideal. 

The attributes of beauty are perhaps difficult to under- 
stand at first, but in subsequent chapters we shall see 
that the merest novice can be helped to produce this 
quality if he can grasp the element of function and elim- 
inate sentimentality from his consciousness at the out- 

To return now to the question of decoration itself, 
some very elementary yet vital statements may be made 
here. Since every applied art object involves two ele- 
ments use and beauty it is essential that we see these 
in their relation to each other and in their relation to the 
decorative idea. 

As has been stated before, with a useful thing, use is 
paramount. One of the old masters of the Renaissance 
said: "Decoration must never be applied where use is 
sacrificed in its application." To appreciate this is 
probably the first step in grasping the meaning of the 
decorative idea. How often do we see fruits and 
flowers painted in the centre of a plate upon which we 
must eat anything ranging from soup to dessert. If 
these do not appear, fish do, and this complicates the 
situation considerably. The sofa pillow that much- 
abused decorative article is not decorative to most 







people if it is a solid colour or the colour of their divan. 
They must display prominently in its centre objects 
human, animal, vegetable, and sometimes mineral. The 
carpet and rug, with roses and lilies natural enough to 
demand respect, are trodden on without the slightest 
feeling as to the fitness of things in materials. Flowers 
appear upon our walls, and into them we drive nails, on 
them we hang pictures, and as they glaringly intrude 
themselves we are forever prevented from using hang- 
ings or other fittings decoratively upon them. 

This question of applying decoration, it will be seen, 
is not only concerned with the objects mentioned, but 
with furniture and other art objects when they are in- 
tended for use, and the decorative idea interferes in the 
least with that use. The same authority has given us 
help by a statement like this: "Decoration exists to 
emphasize and make structure stronger, and also to 
add beauty to the object decorated." The first con- 
sideration here, it will be seen, is not the decoration, 
but the structure of the object to be decorated. Take 
for example the door and its trim. The casing is bor- 
dered on each of its edges by mouldings more or less dis- 
tinct. They are greater or fewer in number, according 
to the scale of the door, but always extend in the same 
direction as the structure of the door; that is, each 
parallel to the other, with their angles always right 
angles. These mouldings, following exactly the struc- 
ture of the opening, as well as the door itself, not only 
call attention by their lines to the opening, but serve to 
strengthen or make more emphatic the outline of this 
opening. At the same time they perform the second 
function of breaking up the surface of the woodwork 



casing. This breaking up relieves the monotony of the 
flat surface, making the casing more interesting and, 
consequently, more beautiful in most instances than a 
perfectly flat surface could be made to appear. 

The chimney piece with its mantel shelf frequently has 
classic mouldings or simple lines bordering and bound- 
ing it. In this case the moulding becomes a decorative 
idea because it has followed and strengthened the 
structural appearance, and has, through a modest dis- 
play of variation in surface and arrangement, expressed 
beauty or the decorative idea. One may readily see 
how this can be applied to a rug. A plain border, two 
or three bands, a few simple lines following the edge of 
the rug conforms to this law and also to the first princi- 
ple stated, since there is no reason why one should not 
step upon an abstract decorative line. 

At this point further illustration is unnecessary, but 
one should test not only these articles each in itself, but 
their arrangement as decorative effects in the room. 

A helpful suggestion may be given here. An English 
writer has said that the confusion between decoration 
and ornamentation has led to many abuses of historic 
ornament. This is just as true of any other ornament 
seen in its true relation to the subject under treatment. 
"Decoration," he says, "exists to strengthen structure 
and make more beautiful the object on which it appears. 
Ornamentation, on the other hand, exists to exploit it- 
self at the expense of the thing upon which it is applied." 
This is food for thought. If the ornament becomes the 
end instead of the means, or in other words, if it be- 
comes apparent as an addition, with the purpose of 
sho wing itself , it loses the decorative quality and savours 



of ostentation and, of course, proportionately, of vul- 
garity. It is well to remember this that in any decora- 
tive question, decoration does not exist for itself, but 
for the thing upon which, or with which, it is used. 

Another point must be discussed in order that we may 
begin at once to see material in its relation to decoration. 
Pattern or ornament must be adapted to the material in 
which it is rendered. For example, perfectly natural 
flowers cannot be expressed in woollen carpets nor in 
printed wall papers at so much a roll. Neither can veg- 
etables, birds, and flowers be painted on china, glazed 
and baked, and still be real. Nor is this desirable. It 
is misapplied effort to attempt to copy nature exactly, 
and to reproduce all its qualities in anything excepting 
its own material. 

Modern art thought has been almost exclusively influ- 
enced by the decadent Renaissance of France. Natu- 
ralism is not art, it is imitation, and when these two are 
confused, successful decoration is well-nigh impossible. 
In order that decorative motives may perform their 
function, they must be so conventionalized that they 
seem to be adequately and rightly expressed in the 
material with which or in which they are used. Only 
the greatest artists of any time are fit to handle natural- 
ism in a decorative way, and then the conventionaliza- 
tion or modification of them to suit the material is a 
criterion of their decorative excellence. 

Pictures, ornaments, and other objects, each perhaps 
decorative, may be so arranged on a wall, a table, or a 
mantel, as to destroy, for example, the rest quality of a 
room. Its dignity, too, or formality, may be absolutely 
lost in the arrangement of the furniture or in the placing 



of objects of ornament about the room. When this is 
done the decorative object, still decorative in itself, not 
only fails to perform its decorative function, but it de- 
stroys the fundamental idea, the use for which it is in- 
tended. This is illustrated in the hanging of portieres 
at doors so that passage is well-nigh impossible, or plac- 
ing window hangings in such a way that no light can 
come in or that persons outside are always able to look in. 
It will later be seen that there is a way to hang windows 
and doors decoratively, and still not interfere with their 
function. This way is, of course, the right way, from 
the standpoint of function, as well as of art and common 

It will be seen then that the problem of decorating a 
room takes into account its function and the function 
of each object used in its furnishing. It also includes 
such a choice and arrangement of these objects as will 
result in a decorative unit adequately expressed. It is 
really a question of seeing structure clearly in relation 
to its need for decorative treatment, and then seeing 
backgrounds in their relation to the decorative objects 
used. In our discussion of colour this matter of back- 
grounds will be considered. 

There is one term the real meaning of which, in its re- 
lation to interior decoration, has become obsolete through 
long misuse. To attempt to go into the principles of 
colour, form, and composition without understanding 
this term would be futile. I refer to the term "art." 
This word more than any other has been played with, 
misapplied, and used for purposes of sentimental ex- 
ploitation until it seems to have lost its significance. 
Perhaps even in a practical discussion of interior decora- 


tion it may not be amiss to consider this term in its 
relation to life. 

I have said that man intuitively desires to create and 
to possess beauty. This desire is equivalent in man's 
higher self to the appetite for food or drink or rest in the 
realm of physical existence. It is just as general, just 
as clearly defined, and just as important to man's reali- 
zation of himself. This is shown by an investigation of 
the savage, the barbarian, or the so-called civilized com- 
munities in their building of shelter and in its decora- 
tive treatment, their making of implements and utensils 
more or less ornamented, their use and misuse of paint, 
metals, and textiles in matters of attire and in all ways 
by which man expresses naturally his life activities. 

Art is then, first of all, a state of mind, a condition of 
consciousness growing out of a desire for beauty ; or one 
might define it as an appetite for aesthetic things. The 
atrocities committed in any of the fields I mentioned 
are but sincere attempts to create the natural stimulus 
which the aesthetic sense of man demands. The reasons 
for these inartistic things are ignorance and over-zealous 
desire for beauty not a wish to badly express the idea. 
Siirce art is a state of mind or of consciousness, it may 
be described as harmony between the idea and its ex- 
pression and between all parts of the elements through 
which idea is expressed. 

The first division of this art quality is that of fitness or 
function, which we have discussed. This requires an 
element of intellectual ability on the part of the art pro- 
ducer. The aesthetic, or second part, refers to the 
knowledge and feeling regarding the relationship of 
forms, lines and colours that will by their combination 



excite an aesthetic emotion when presented to the sense 
of sight. 

The response to the aesthetic or art quality is simply a 
question of becoming keen to what relations of colour, 
form, and line have in the best art expression succeeded in 
exciting the strongest aesthetic emotion. This response 
reveals what basic principles underlie the formation of 
these combinations, and, finally, determines the appli- 
cation of these principles to simple problems of choice 
and arrangement of the necessary things for any room 
under discussion. 

Nothing is more helpful in sensing the art quality and 
securing a natural expression of it than to eliminate 
from one's mind some of the things that art is not. 

First, it is not prettiness. Art is beauty, and beauty 
is "from within out," not "from without in." Its qual- 
ity is eternal. Beauty of mind, if it exist, may express 
itself unconsciously in whatever one does. Some people 
with very homely and ordinary features are, when think- 
ing and acting rightly, truly beautiful. Prettiness, on 
the other hand, is from without. It is ephemeral, and 
pleases the eye only. It takes no intellect and no aes- 
thetic sense to appreciate prettiness. 

Second, the inordinate and blind worship of the antique 
is not art. If a man at seventy has retained any charm, 
it is in spite of his age, not because of it. Time softens 
and accentuates good things because their qualities are 
permanent. It sometimes aggravates and makes un- 
bearable ugly things for the same reason. If this 
difference can be seen in persons, it certainly can be 
perceived in things. Let the worship of pasted labels, 
telling how old an article is, cease to exist, and one ob- 


stacle to understanding art will be removed. Another 
and more deadly mistake is the idolizing of a particular 
man's work. "Is it a real Rembrandt?" "Is this 
truly of the fifteenth century?" "Was it done by 
Bramante?" "Are you certain this is an authentic 
Queen Anne piece? " No one has ever done well all the 
time. Much of the work of the very greatest artists 
has been unworthy of them. Some work of much lesser 
lights has been of an excellent character. Let us see 
the quality of art in the object, and not the man's name 
or the conditions under which he made it, and there is a 
chance that we shall know art when it appears in the 
work of others or in our own. 

It is more difficult still to disassociate art from the idea 
of picture painting. In the past drawing and painting 
have been art education. If a man studied art, ex- 
pressed art, or loved art it must be through pictures 
only, and they were expected to belong to the school of 
realism and naturalism, in which not a thing was left to 
the imagination of the observer except, perhaps, how 
long it took to paint them and how much it cost to buy 
them. To disassociate the art quality from pictures, 
drawings, statuary, or any one particular medium of 
expression, is essential to the realization of its quality 
in any field. 

Any discussion, however simple, of these terms seems 
to establish the following facts: that art is an essential 
quality in human life and that it is the expression of a 
knowledge and feeling for functional fitness and for 
beauty in every made thing. It should further appear 
that decoration is the natural expression of this art qual- 
ity in objects of use and beauty, with a realization of their 



relation to each other, and the possibilities and limitations 
attendant upon the problem of furnishing a house. It 
should seem clear also that the structural line or build 
of the object is the guiding idea in the application of 
whatever is to be used decoratively upon the room as a 
background. The decorative material must not only 
be in harmony with the idea for which each piece stands, 
but it must be used harmoniously in making up the 
room and so expressing a complete decorative thought. 



MAN expresses his ideas or conveys his thoughts to 
others by means of language, and language consists of a 
set of symbols which serve to establish a standard sys- 
tem of communication between all persons by whom 
these symbols are understood. To all who understand 
English the word "boy" conveys practically the same 
general meaning. In any tongue the word symbol is 
meant to establish a criterion of understanding as 
to some object or idea for which the word symbol 

The same truth may be applied to musical tones. A 
succession of sounds or a chord of tones conveys to him 
who understands this language a concord of musical 
elements expanded into a motif. A quality or an emo- 
tion quite similar in its nature is aroused in all persons 
who hear and understand. Musical composition exists 
to convey from one person to others a stimulant, whose 
action on the aesthetic sense and on the consciousness of 
human beings shall result in awakening definite emo- 
tions, thus constructing definite ideas. 

The picture language, and its efficient method of com- 
municating ideas even between people who do not 
understand the same word language or the same sound 



language, is too well known and understood to require 
comment. Age, success, national limitations, and edu- 
cational development are alike unable to destroy the 
power of the pictured idea. 

Colour, which is perhaps one of the most potent and 
certainly one of the most pleasing means of expressing 
ideas, is least understood. It is of all language forms 
the most abused. This is partly due to the fact that in 
this age colour is usually accepted as good because it 
belonged to some period expression, or because some 
particular person used it, or, what is more lamentable, 
because some individual likes it for personal reasons. 
The sentimental aspect of colour, sensed and used for the 
orgy for emotions it creates, has done much to retard the 
scientific and sensible understanding and use of it. If 
it is worth knowing at all, it is worth understanding as 
well as feeling, and it is also worth using to express with 
the utmost perfection all that its component elements 
can possibly tell. 

Like all other language expressions there are two ways 
of approaching it from the constructive standpoint: 
first, one may be surrounded by a harmonious colour 
environment. He may be led to see what is really good 
and bad under this condition and he may by uncon- 
scious absorption particularly if he has a natural 
instinct for colour discernment learn to sense right rela- 
tionships and use them in his own life expression. This 
manner, however, of acquiring knowledge is one sided, 
and is applicable mostly to persons who are unusually 
endowed, leaving one with no standard of judgment ex- 
cept feeling. Since feelings are emotions and differ 
absolutely in individuals, they must also vary in every 


instance, and therefore the results of this training with 
most persons are somewhat unreliable. 

On the other hand, colour, when considered as a power 
in nature, and regarded as a normal method of express- 
ing ideas, may be as scientific in its inception and work- 
ings as any other power in nature, so becoming a 
tangible thing to acquire and use. 

Science has not developed colour as it has sound, but 
there are many analogies apparent to the uninitiated. 
Sound is produced by the vibration of the ether surround- 
ing us. Colour is produced by the vibration of light in 
the same ether. Sound, its combinations and messages, 
reach consciousness through the sense of hearing. Colour, 
its elemental meanings, combinations, and force, reach 
the same consciousness in the same way through the sense 
of sight. The impressions of sound and colour are inter- 
woven in consciousness through association with other 
ideas and with each other, until music seems to have 
colour, and colour seems to express musical tone. In 
fact, so closely are these media associated in the minds 
of many persons that it is not difficult for them to trans- 
late a symphony in music to a colour harmony exciting 
the same emotions, or the colour harmony to the musical 
symphony with the same results. It is not the purpose 
of this discussion to go into the details of these relation- 
ships, but only to bring to the mind of the reader the 
necessity for seeing colour at the outset from the same 
standpoint of common sense and adaptability for use 
that he sees sound symbols or picture representations. 
The interest which one has in a language and the prog- 
ress he makes in acquiring it depend upon perceiving 
clearly the simplest elements in that language, their re- 



lation to each other and to ideas which they should ex- 
press. The treatment of colour must be under the same 

It has been said that colour originates in light. This 
may be proven by observing colours in the brilliant sun- 
light, in a shaded room, on a very dark day, just before 
dark, and in a perfectly darkened room if this were possi- 
ble. The change in their appearance in each case is due 
to the change in light in which these observations are 
made. The colour of the object remains the same, but 
the condition under which the eye receives the impres- 
sion changes. The dull day brings dull colours appar- 
ently, and similarly the bright day brilliant ones. This 
is because the light is bright or dull, and not because the 
pigment substance has in any way been changed. 

This fact is important in the selection and arrangement 
of materials for furnishing a room, inasmuch as the room 
must be seen ordinarily in all kinds of weather, day and 
night, with both natural and artificial lights. Unless 
one knows what the normal colour is under normal cir- 
cumstances, he is unable to use the artificial light which 
comes from electricity, gas, or oil, or to use hangings 
other than white, or to place upon his walls any colour 
from which light must be reflected onto all other objects 
associated with it. Is it not clear that the light enter- 
ing a room may be changed in tone by the colour of the 
window hanging, through which it is filtered, by re- 
flecting from the wall some of the colour which its surface 
shows, or from the changed aspect which it must take 
on if the light itself is produced by artificial means? 

All of us have seen blue turn to green when seen under 
artificial light. We have seen violet almost become red, 


and another tone of violet appear gray. These are 
perfectly natural changes, and are due only to the effect 
which one element in colour produces on another when 
used in connection with it. Bad colour schemes could 
easily be avoided if we knew the power of each of the 
elements concerned. 

It is wise at this point to differentiate between colour as 
the physicist uses the term in connection with colour in 
light, or as component elements of pure white light and 
the pigment colour so called, which includes dyestuffs, 
printers' inks, oil and water-colour paints, etc. These 
pigments are materials which absorb a part of each ray 
of light and leave the remaining part on the surface, 
giving the impression to the eye of the colour which one 
sees when he beholds any object. 

In terms of general understanding there are three 
elemental pigments which express the three primary 
elements of colour found in white light. In pigment 
terms these three elements are called yellow, red, and 
blue, and are the primary colours in what is known as 
the colour spectrum. When these normal elements are 
in their fullest strength they are easily fused by mixing 
into a neutral gray in which no apparent colour is seen. 
This gray, eliminating all colour, is the proof that the 
three elemental pigments are the foundation of the col- 
our language and that their fusion into gray is the trans- 
lation of the rainbow spectrum into light. 

Starting then with yellow, red, and blue of normal tone, 
all other colour tones, with the additional use of black 
and white, may be made. Because of this, yellow, red, 
and blue stand out as the simplest, most primitive, least 
involved, and most easily grasped of all colour tones. 



It is easy to understand why young children, primitive 
races, and persons with an obtuse colour sense can with- 
out conscious effort appreciate yellow, red, and blue in 
their full brilliancy and in limitless areas. A more 
refined sense or a greater range of colour possibility ig- 
nores this crudeness, except in cases of extraordinary em- 
phasis for very particular reasons. 

Green as a normal colour is one-half yellow and one- 
half blue in force; orange is one-half red and one-half 
yellow; purple is one-half red and one-half blue. These 
three colours, because there are two elements involved 
in each, are called binary colours, and these, since they 
contain two elements each, are less easily grasped, re- 
quire a more cultivated sense, and express a wider range 
of quality idea. 

With these six colours in mind let us examine the fun- 
damental meaning of each. A colour tone should by 
its very nature mean a quality, and should arouse in the 
individual the feeling of quality, and not merely excite a 
feeling of pleasure or bring up by association the colour 

Yellow is more than any of these like the sun or arti- 
ficial light in its appearance. In fact, it is very like most 
artificial lights, and like the sun when one looks directly 
into it. Because of this, yellow is called light, and just 
as light brings cheer into the darkened room, just as it 
gives life to plant forms, just as its life-giving and cheer- 
giving qualities are seen in other manifestations, so 
yellow, entering into any colour scheme whatever, intro- 
duces into it the same quality feelings of light, cheer, 
buoyancy and life. 

The darkened city room, with its one window opening 


on a court, may be made livable and usable by means of 
a yellow wall paper, with a lighter, softer, yellow ceiling. 
Then, by bringing light yellow into the hangings and 
using yellow lamp shades lined with white, all the 
light will be conserved. The natural and artificial 
lights will be supplemented by the colour, and the quali- 
ties which light itself has will be forced into the scheme 
of the room. To forget the power of light in room ar- 
rangement is to forget the fundamental fact in all colour 
use. This does not mean that in any of these cases 
a perfectly full, intense, brilliant yellow should appear, 
but a colour tone, in which yellow is the dominating 
element. Such names as buff, cream, ecru, lemon, 
etc., are given to yellow colour tones in which yellow is 
the dominating element. 

Red suggests blood and fire blood as it relates to the 
life-giving or vitalizing force in man which makes him 
think more quickly and act more quickly which 
arouses his passions, and creates ideas of warmth and 
irritation. This is particularly true because persons have 
been born and have lived with blood red in colour and 
with fire red in its dominating element. We know by 
life experience the effects of such things on the actions 
of man. 

This quality of aggressive action on the part of red is 
curious in its effect when used in excess. Some two 
years ago hi a large department store a small room was 
built and coloured throughout a bright normal red. A 
jury of six men was invited to estimate the size of the 
interior. The same room was removed to another part 
of the store and coloured in light clear blue. The same 
party of men was asked to estimate the size of this room. 



They estimated the latter to be over thirty per cent, 
larger than the former, and refused to believe that the 
two rooms were identical. 

Red, by its aggressive nature, seems to reach man's 
consciousness more quickly than blue and, therefore, 
the walls and ceilings seem to contract or to be brought 
closer together, thus lessening the apparent size of the 
room. The effect that red has upon animal life is well 
illustrated by its use in exciting the temper of the bull in 
the Spanish bull ring, the turkey gobbler on the New 
England farm, or the savage beast in the jungles of the 
African forest. This exciting quality which red pos- 
sesses is a valuable asset for use in stage settings where 
the primary object is to create a state of emotion in the 
audience in harmony with the incident which the actors 
wish to force on public consciousness. Those who have 
seen Miss Nethersole, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, or Mrs. 
Fiske' in any of their pronounced successes can readily 
see how the use and the absence of this colour have 
played a large part in the creation of an atmosphere 
calculated to convince the audience of the idea which 
the play portrayed. 

The skillful use of red brings out particularly in 
town houses a quality of warmth and inviting hospi- 
tality not to be despised. On the other hand, a use of 
it in any considerable quantity in the country house 
suggests the temperature that is likely to prevail, in- 
stead of giving the impression of an antidote for the 
weather one is trying to escape. 

Blue, the third element of colour, is known as the 
cold or non-aggressive element. It is this which holds 
red in check or destroys the too pronounced effect of 

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yellow and red in a combination where the three ele- 
ments appear. ? The association of blue with the cold 
aspect of the sky on a winter's night, with ice, when 
seen in thick cakes, with the blue waters of the ocean, 
etc., has given blue a place in human consciousness that 
must excite the qualities with which it is associated. 
Blue, then, on the stage and in the house, must be looked 
to for sensations of coolness, repose, restraint, and for- 
mality, as well as for an antidote in case of too warm a 
temperature or a too excited mental state. 

Green is not only yellow and blue, but light and cool- 
ness, cheer and restraint. The grass and trees in sum- 
mer, combined with the blue sky, help, if the climate is 
exhausting, to render people comfortable and to make 
life agreeable. Green is a colour heralded by oculists as 
beneficial to the eyes, and is regarded as soothing to 
tired nerves and injured dispositions. It is quite right 
that it should be so considered, since these qualities 
light and coolness, cheerfulness with moderation, rest 
and vitality are intermingled equally in the sensations 
which green is asked to arouse when presented to the 
sense of sight. This makes green an admirable colour 
under certain circumstances to use in hot climates, in 
country houses, and for nervous people. When prop- 
erly harmonized it may become a symphonic part of 
any combination under any circumstances. 

The qualities of orange will also be found in yellow 
and red that is, light and heat, cheerful vigour and 
irritation, vitality and aggression. Orange, then, unless 
controlled, arouses all those qualities opposed to green. 
It inevitably destroys the effect of repose, restraint, etc., 
excepting when used in counteracting combinations, 



where the control is with the other colour tones. 
Orange, with its accessory hues, includes such colours as 
browns of all kinds, red buffs, and many wood colours, as 
well as combinations with orange as dominant while 
other colours hold it in restraint so that its full power 
is not exercised. Small quantities of brilliant orange 
are possible, however, since only a small area is essential 
to give all the impression of that quality that is health- 
ful for the ordinary individual. 

Purple, the last of the binary colours, seems to have 
expressed itself even more clearly in the past, and is the 
most easily grasped of the three. All the qualities of 
red and all the qualities of blue fused together result 
practically in ashes. Ice and coals of fire would destroy 
each other; heat and arctic temperature neutralize 
each other; aggression and restraint balance or comple- 
ment each other, and shade, quiet, or a mystic twilight 

Purple has always been used with a mystic signifi- 
cance by the church and is known as royal purple be- 
cause of its association with the mystic ceremonials of 
court life. Instinctively people have chosen purple to 
express the stage of mourning which exists between the 
period when vogue has declared pure black an expres- 
sion of one's sorrow and the time when he may again 
wear any colour which to him seems suitable. Purple 
is shadow, and shadows in nature are always some purple 
tone. Shade, sorrow, mysticism, and dignity are the 
fundamental quality characteristics of this third binary 
colour when it is seen in its normal tone. There are 
many tones of this colour known in trade parlance as 
violet, lilac, lavender, elephant's breath, London smoke, 


mauve, etc., all of them being some manifestation of the 
combination of the two elements red and blue, with the 
addition of the other element yellow in some proportion, 
or of black, with purple still in control. 

For a proper understanding of these colours and their 
real meaning it is essential to ignore the idea of vogue 
as it is formulated either by commercial enterprise or 
human fancy, and manifested from year to year in the 
fashions of the time. This statement must not be 
taken to mean that an entire room in any one of these 
colours is desirable under any circumstances. It is 
merely given to show what the introduction of any 
colour could mean and does mean, consciously or un- 
consciously, more or less, to anybody who lives in it. 
The word tone is the most general name in colour use. 
Any note of colour, including black, white, or gray, is a 
colour tone. The term "normal colour" is given to colour 
tones when they are at their fullest strength in the 
spectrum circuit or rainbow colour scheme. Any colour 
which is lighter than the normal colour is called a tint, 
and any colour which is darker than the normal colour, a 
shade. A neutral tone is a tone in which there is no 
apparent colour. Neutral gray, black, and white are 
the only true neutrals. Gold, in period study, is some- 
times classed as a neutral tone, although of course it is 
always some modified form of yellow. 

Every tone of colour has its three distinct qualities. 
We are apt to think of a colour as one simple thing, and 
to say it is either too strong or too weak without con- 
sidering this fact. The first quality of a colour tone 
is its hue. In speaking of yellow we mean the normal 
primary yellow hi which there is no other element pres- 



ent. One should be able to detect immediately if 
yellow has blue in it or if red is present in the slightest 
degree. As soon as any blue appears in yellow it begins 
to be a green. This green any green in which there is 
more yellow apparent than blue is called yellow green, 
and all tones of green between normal green and yellow 
belong to the class of hues called yellow green. 

Add to normal yellow the slightest bit of red, and the 
colour approaches orange. In fact, it is a yellow orange, 
and all tones made up of red and yellow, which are 
nearer yellow than orange, belong to the class of hues 
known as yellow orange. Start with normal red and 
by the addition of yellow the colour tone approaches 
orange, but red is the dominating element. In such 
colour tones this is red orange because it belongs to the 
family orange and the element red is in excess of the 
element yellow. If we start with normal red and add 
blue, the purple hues appear. So long as red is the 
dominating element, the hues are the red purple. If 
blue is the starting point, however, and red is added, the 
hues between normal purple and blue are blue purple. 
When the starting point is blue, and yellow is added, 
the blue begins to assume a greenish hue, and blue green 
is the name given to the set of hues between normal blue 
and normal green. 

These sets of tones which are found around the bi- 
nary colours express hues of colour. It will be seen 
then that hue is the name of the colour itself, or that it 
really expresses the degree of so-called heat or cold 
which a colour has. The hues of colour between yellow 
and purple, including all greens and all blues, are cool 
colours. Those between yellow and purple, including 





all orange and red colour tones, are warm colours. It 
is this that gives significance to the expression "temper- 
amental colour," one's tefltfferament being expressed 
by the hues on the right or the left of the spectrum 

There are two ways in which one should see the tem- 
perament idea in its relation to the subject Interior 
Decoration. If it is granted that certain colour tones 
produce, consciously and unconsciously, certain impres- 
sions or mental states in individuals living under their 
influence, then arises the question whether the mental 
state the individual enjoys most is the mental state in 
which he ought most often to be. For instance, I may 
enjoy being thrilled and stirred, warmed and excited, 
by orange or red in their combinations, but it may be 
better for me and far more agreeable for my associates 
if I am surrounded by green or blue : colours exercising 
some restraining influence upon my nature instead of 
catering to what is most pleasing to me in the way of 
emotional sensation. 

In selecting material for one's self, or in advising any 
one what to select, it is always wise to sense as nearly as 
possible the psychological condition of temperament 
before attempting to control or augment its idiosyn- 
crasies by environment. 

The subject of hue cannot very well be left without 
referring to what is known as keying a colour, or the 
keying of a scheme of colour to a dominant hue. Much 
has been said and written about this dominant hue 
keying. It simply means this: that one of the three 
elements yellow, red, or blue must be introduced 
into the leading areas of a colour scheme in such a way 



that one will feel its presence, although the colour itself 
is found in another tone in the spectrum circuit. 

A very familiar violation of the rule for keying colour 
is found in the use of a definite wall-paper tone with 
perhaps a natural-wood or ivory-white trim, a hard- 
wood floor, and a perfectly white kalsomined ceiling. 
"White is such a combination of the primary elements of 
colour that no one colour is apparent. It is saturated 
with the three elements; in consequence, no one domi- 
nates. Colours show more strongly on it than on any 
other colour or on black. In white, there being no ap- 
parent colour, it is unrelated and, therefore, cannot be- 
come a part of a keyed room scheme in which there is any 
floor or wall colour. If the wall colour is a soft neutral- 
ized yellow or orange, then the ceiling must be keyed 
with that colour in a lighter tone, so that you feel the 
ceiling tied with an apparent colour element to the wall, 
of which it is really a part. 

What is true of the ceiling is true of the floor. When 
the floor cannot be keyed to the wall, rugs should be used 
in which the dominating tone is that of the wall. The 
rugs must be keyed to the wall in order to become a 
part of it. Of course there are times when the rug or 
rugs play in the key of the trim instead of the wall 
paper, but in the simplest arrangement the three parts of 
the room walls, floors, and ceiling should be keyed 
so that there is an apparent link or common element. 

It is often possible to key furniture which, so far 
as the wood goes, is a foreign colour tone to the rest 
of the room by upholstery in which the dominating 
colour is strongly keyed to the wall colour, the trim, or 
the floor. Preferably, key to the wall colour because 


of the intimate relationship between the background of 
a room and the accessory objects that are to be shown 
against it. This is essential to unity of colour, and is 
the only way to secure an expression of rest, refinement 
and repose. 

The second quality a colour tone possesses is called 
value. This quality takes its name from the position a 
tone holds in a scale of even sequence between black 
and white. It relates, therefore, to light, and is per- 
fectly distinct from the quality of colour or hue. If one 
thinks of a graded scale from black to white in which 
even steps of grade are found in any number, a standard 
of judgment as to the meaning of the word value is 
easily fixed. 

For example, a colour tone whose light quality is one- 
half way between black and white is called middle 
value. In a scale of nine tones, one-half way between 
middle and white is called light, one-half way between 
light and middle is called low light, and one-half way 
between light and white is called high light. In the 
same way, one-half way between middle and black is 
dark, while one-half way between middle and dark is 
high dark, and one-half way between middle and black 
is low dark. 

These values, though arbitrary, are equidistant in 
light quality from each other, and standardize the value 
idea, thereby helping one to disassociate the value qual- 
ity from the hue quality previously discussed. It is 
difficult at first to see each quality as a separate idea, but 
only in so doing is one able to understand how to 
select and arrange colours in composition so that each 
tone serves its full purpose and does not conflict in 



any one quality while seeming to agree in the other 

The preeminent importance of the room as a back- 
ground for the application of the decorative idea cannot 
be too often emphasized. The question of value in 
relation to background is a delicate but important one. 
To arrange this background in such a way that no part 
of it becomes too important, aggressive, or forceful is 
the problem, and a right choice of values contributes 
more toward solving it successfully than, perhaps, any 
one quality in colour choice. 

The old conviction that the trim must stand out as 
distinctly as possible from the wall cover is antagonistic 
to the background idea. If the wall cover and trim 
are different in hue, it is almost necessary that their 
values should be practically the same. In fact, if both 
hue and value are the same, the result is not only more 
pleasing, but far more sensible in cases where the trim is 
painted or enamelled. Where a natural-wood trim is 
involved, it is sometimes more difficult to adjust the 
question of hue ; but if there is a hue difference, the value 
difference should not be in too great a contrast, as it 
immediately establishes hard and inconsistent lines. 
The strong appeal of these lines is hard to neutralize 
by decorative treatment without causing the room to 
become crude and unrestful in its final quality. 

In some periods, it is true, ivory-white woodwork 
and a middle-value wall colour appear with mahogany 
furniture and, sometimes, mahogany doors. This, how- 
ever, is a condition of period which was influenced 
somewhat by the popularity or vogue of mahogany 
wood, somewhat by the unusual idea of spick and span 


cleanliness which the Colonial period sought, not only 
to establish, but to promulgate, and somewhat by the 
desire for a note dark enough in value to gi\v strength 
and definite form to the side wall, hi order that it should 
relate itself in some way to a darker floor or, perhaps, 
darker rugs and carpets and furniture. 

We derive from those historic periods whose styles are 
most adaptable to our modern conditions the law of a 
lighter ceiling, a midway side wall and a darker floor. 

This is reasonable and sensible, since man hi his 
natural environment has lived under these conditions 
when outside the house. If one looks about him hi the 
country he finds the sky lighter than the far-away hills, 
the far-away hills lighter in value than the shadow under 
the tree where he stands. This is taken by many as the 
fundamental reason why the room feels more com- 
fortable when the value relations are placed in this 

There is probably still another reason why one in- 
tuitively feels these relative positions. The law of 
gravitation, pulling or attracting always toward the 
centre of the earth, establishes in all persons a feeling 
for a strong base on which to rest and upon which other 
objects may repose. If the order of values is reversed, 
having the darkest value overhead, one cannot help 
feeling the possibility of a falling ceiling which must 
result in a crushed and crumbling floor, it not being 
dark enough to support the falling weight. 

When the floor sometimes a hardwood finish is 
lighter than the wall, the value relations may be ad- 
justed by the use of darker rugs. In fact, this is the 
only way to give the proper feeling of structure and rest 



to the room unit when it is completed. This, in part, 
settles the value relation of the floor to the walls and 
ceiling. Care is necessary, however, in final criticism, 
that the rugs do not spot or badly outline themselves 
against the light floor. It would be better to treat the 
floor in such a way that the rugs do not become an ag- 
gressive addition. It is the place of a rug to lie incon- 
spicuously and quietly on a floor. The very function 
of the floor, the fact that we walk on it, and the horizon- 
tal position of the rug itself are all reasons why it should 
be modest, eliminating the disposition on the part of 
the individual to centre his interest upon a place where 
lie should walk and place his feet without conscious 

The value idea extends to something more than back- 
grounds. It is a quality of every single object in the 
decorating and furnishing scheme. The hangings are a 
decorative idea, and are to be used, as suggested in a 
previous chapter, to emphasize and beautify the struc- 
tural opening with which they are associated. The 
question of their contrast with the background is in 
each case a new one but, fundamentally, they should 
be stronger in contrast than the trim with the wall 
cover or the wall, as a whole, with the ceiling or floor. 
These background parts are to be seen as a unit. 

The hangings constitute the first decorative idea to be 
considered in the scheme of furnishing. The starched 
white lace curtains of half a century ago the strongest 
possible contrast in value between the wall and them- 
selves have generally disappeared as persons of refine- 
ment have appreciated, quite intuitively maybe, that 
these introduced an element in no way keyed to the rest 


of the wall, and generally in no way possible, since they 
seemed totally unrelated to their surroundings. 

If the trim of some room perchance is white, the ceil- 
ing white, and the furniture painted white, the white 
lace curtains or white muslin ones are a part of the 
decorative scheme. Where colour, however, in hue domi- 
nates the decorative scheme, white curtains are quite 

Rugs are probably more often badly related in values 
than any other one article used in furnishing a house. 
The epidemic of Oriental rugs has been so severe in the 
last twenty -five years that the term and cost have be- 
come synonymous with the idea "effective floor cover- 
ing." The floor is, as previously remarked, covered for 
comfort and to make it more beautiful by softening the 
wood appearance, and adding texture. 

The idea of comfort and luxury in sitting or walking 
has brought the rug into universal use. Oriental rugs 
were not, for the most part, produced in response to the 
need which has just been mentioned. Various forms 
and decorative motifs have been created, some for 
their religious significance, some as family symbols, and 
others out of totally unrelated art expressions. They 
have been woven in rug forms much as the Gothic spirit 
expressed itself in tapestries, the Renaissance in carved 
wood and chiselled stone, or New England Colonial 
architecture in bricks and white marble. The unre- 
lated and confusing medallion and shapes of that sort 
must be so closely related in value that they are not 
only inconspicuous but almost eliminated before the 
rug has any of the qualities necessary for harmonizing 
it with the floor or with the structural characteristics 



of the furniture to be placed upon it. This is partic- 
ularly evident where patterns appear on backgrounds of 
white, light yellow, or other strong values that make the 
pattern more important than is the structural edge of 
the rug upon the floor. 

These distracting shapes are often the reason for an 
unrestful, undignified, and inartistic impression one has 
on entering even the most luxurious of modern houses. 
Since the floor is a background, since chairs must be 
seen upon it, as well as people, and since it is unimpor- 
tant as a show place when compared with the walls, it 
must be as inconspicuous as they are in value relations. 
This rule might be applied to each article in the room, 
but perhaps one or two more concrete instances may 
make the meaning clearer. 

The Italian Renaissance developed probably the most 
dignified, strong, and formal chair the world has yet 
seen. It was also, in proportion, one of the most beau- 
tiful. Its wood was dark in value and it was covered, un- 
til the decadent period, in a dark red, green, or blue tone. 
This value differs little, if any, from the wood itself, but 
emphasizes the decorative idea by change of hue and 
intensity only. 

There was a time and the fad is still cherished by 
some people when pictures, particularly prints, pho- 
tographs, and engravings were matted on white. When 
a brown photograph is mounted on white and a dark 
brown frame is placed around (which should always 
be the case), the strongest contrast is found where the 
frame and mat meet. "Strongest contrast" means 
"strongest desire to look." Granting that the picture 
is the thing to be seen and that the strongest contrast 


between the picture and its adjacent environment would 
draw the attention of the observer to it, the mat is not 
only a non-essential but a positive hindrance to a proper 
appreciation of the picture itself. 

Applications of this idea of close value relationships 
where things should be unobtrusive and should possess 
wider value contrasts, where the desire to emphasize is 
compatible with good taste, establish a standard of judg- 
ment or criticism which any person may use on any 
room with effective results. 

The third colour quality is called intensity. This 
quality takes its name from the colour itself, and relates 
to its vitality or individual strength. In common par- 
lance we speak of brilliant colours and soft ones, some- 
times of brilliant and pastel. This quality is the one 
which shows how much vitality or personal force a 
colour tone possesses. Full intense colours, particu- 
larly those spectrum hues which have been discussed, 
express in the strongest way the idea for which they 

For example, a normal blue, which is blue at dark 
in value, is at its fullest intensity; that is, it is as force- 
ful a blue as can be made. If I make it lighter I weaken 
it by putting white or water into it. If I darken it I 
also weaken it, because I must do so with black, it being 
just as full of the colour itself as it can get. This same 
thing is true of all other colour hues at their normal 
maturity point. 

Black, which is the absence of colour, should be un- 
derstood here because it is this tone which absorbs col- 
our when it is brought in contact with it as a surface. 
For example, colour is stronger displayed on white than 



it is on black, all things being equal, because white does 
not absorb and black does. An illustration of this is 
seen in its application to persons. White, worn next 
the face, leaves all the colour the individual has ap- 
parent to an observer. Black absorbs or extracts 
colour and, for most people, is impossible when in con- 
tact or close juxtaposition to the skin of the face. 

It is essential to remember this in the treatment of 
colour in relation to its intensity quality. Pairs of col- 
ours, or opposite ones, in the spectrum circuit, are called 
complements. One colour complements another because 
it contains always the two other elements which its op- 
posite lacks. For example, orange is made of equal 
forces of yellow and red. Its complement is normal 

In the pigment circuit purple is the union of equal 
forces of red and blue. The missing element, yellow, 
is its complement. While green unites in equal power 
yellow and blue, the missing element red complements 

Since yellow, red, and blue fused in equal forces pro- 
duce a neutral gray, green and red mixed in the same 
way also produce gray. This is equally true of orange 
and blue, of purple and yellow, and, in fact, of any op- 
posite spectrum hues, such as yellow orange and blue 
violet, yellow green and red violet, red orange and blue 
green. Each of these pairs neutralizes the other and is, 
therefore, complementary in its relationship. 

A colour is neutralized by introducing into it as a nor- 
mal colour the normal complement. In proportion as 
the complement enters into it, it loses its own natural 
vital force, and not only holds itself in restraint, but 


takes on a certain proportion of the qualities of the 
other two elements which have been introduced into it. 
The result is a colour neutralized by its complement. 
See how subtle relationships may become to him who 
understands grayed or neutralized colours. 

Green a union of light, cheer, coolness, and restraint, 
harmonized and modified by the proper amount of heat 
and vigour becomes a subtle compound of the essen- 
tial qualities of colour. It expresses one's idea of the 
dominant position of each in the individual problem 
which is being worked out. 

Due regard to this matter of intensity in colour and 
its right management is probably the most effective 
means by which one may use ordinary things, so that 
their effect shall at least not be aggressive, common- 
place, or harmful. 

When one-half the vitality of a colour has been de- 
stroyed by its complement it is said to be half neutral- 
ized. It then has one-half itself plus one-fourth each 
of the other two elements of colour. Its own idea or 
quality is still dominant and it controls the quality 
elements of the other two, but uses them to soften its 
own appeal. 

Colour tones may be less or more than one-half neu- 
tralized; in fact, there may be as many tones between a 
normal colour and a perfect gray as one's eye is able to 
distinguish, and no more. This process by which the 
colour loses its self -force by the introduction of its com- 
plement is called the process of neutralization. 

The application of the principle of intensity to the 
problem of the house is the same as the application of 
the value power, except that its relation to the back- 



ground is even more important than in the case of any 
other colour quality. 

Full, intense colour is the loudest, strongest, most 
forceful appeal of the idea for which it stands. It 
should, then, be reserved for the few things which 
one wishes to make emphatic in any scheme of colour 
composition. If the vital force of each colour tone is 
expended on unnecessary and unimportant things, what 
shall we do about the things to which we would call 
particular attention? 

In music special stress or emphasis of tone is reserved 
for those chords or passages which must be brought 
home to the hearer with particular strength. If the full 
power of an orchestra is expended on introductory, ex- 
planatory, and non-essential passages, in what way shall 
the vital ones receive particular stress ? The analogy be- 
tween this idea and the human voice in talking is easily 
grasped, and the same idea should be seen with equal 
clearness in reference to the intensity emphasis in 
colour appeal as to when and where to use it with 

Applied to backgrounds there is one principle that 
is fundamental and final in any field of expression. 
"Backgrounds must be less intense in colour than ob- 
jects which are to be effectively shown on them." 

What a revelation in window dressing there would 
be if persons responsible for them were not more anxious 
to show an inartistic and ugly grained or highly polished 
woodwork than they were the modest articles dis- 
played upon this background ! Or what a change would 
be seen if the velvet or velour drapery backgrounds of 
these windows were not of a colour far stronger in in- 


tensity than any of the goods the shopkeeper asks the 
public to observe. 

The room, particularly one in which people must live, 
is a very much more important matter. This is true 
not only because of the qualities which the background 
of the room must unite but also because decoration of any 
kind or description becomes impossible unless conditions 
are right to begin with. Then, too, the room exists in a 
house, generally speaking, for people rather than for 
objects of furniture. This is a consideration to which 
very few give sufficient weight. During the daytime 
and evening, in varying conditions of feeling, appear- 
ance, and dress, one must be seen by the family and one's 
friends must be exploited against the background of the 

Take a soft neutralized tone of yellow, green, or blue 
wall paper, and upon it place small pieces, one at a time, 
of the most intense red, blue, green, yellow, purple, and 
orange silk or paper. See how this neutralized back- 
ground makes it possible for each small piece of vital 
colour to do its full work as the expression of a personal 
idea. Take small pieces of the same colours, a little 
less intense, and see that it is possible for each of these 
colours to express its idea while the background does not 
materially interfere with it. Conceive one's self in the 
place of these pieces of silk or paper, and it is not difficult 
to imagine that the result would be somewhat similar. 

Reverse this process, and take large pieces of full, 
intense colours as backgrounds, and upon them try to 
show small pieces of very neutralized colour tones. It 
will quickly be seen that these colours not only are of no 
merit whatever, as colour, but are neutralized or de- 



stroyed, at least in part, by the ferocious onslaught of 
the background idea. This sweeps on, because of its 
intensity and area, to the utter destruction of every- 
thing with which it comes in contact. Furniture, pic- 
tures, ornament, and persons disappear and become as 
nothing when compared with its full intensity. 

From this last illustration two other important 
lessons may be drawn as to the areas or relative areas in 
which intensities may appear and still express their fun- 
damental ideas. 

The neutralized background of a wall with a half 
intense or even more intense hanging may be used with 
a small lamp shade, or bit of interesting ornament, or 
pottery, of a full intense colour, and each have its share 
of importance. The larger the area, under ordinary 
conditions, the less intense a colour should be and 
conversely, the smaller the area the more intense a 
colour may be, the actual degree of intensity, of course, 
depending upon the amount of stress or emphasis one is 
willing to give that particular thing. 

This thought would be incomplete unless a caution 
were given in regard to the intensity of the rug or parts 
of it. The most effective rug is that in which the whole 
is keyed by one colour with all others subordinating 
themselves to this keyed idea. If this is not possible, 
intensity relations, as well as value relations, should be 
so close that no one part of the rug seems unduly im- 
portant. As has been said, no part of the floor is a 
picture gallery or place to exploit shapes, forms, or col- 
ours at the expense of the tone unit for which the floor 
stands. If, on the other hand, any part of the rug must 
be intense, the law of intensity as to areas should 


certainly be observed and in a most conservative 

Let the interesting and vitally decorative spots and 
lines of the room have the intense colour emphasis. 
Let this appear also in single objects, and the third 
or intensity quality of colours will be considered in away 
that makes this quality a fundamental force in interior 

A knowledge of the qualities of each colour, its hue, 
tone, value and intensity, should lead to a conscious, 
sensible application of that knowledge in the fields that 
have been suggested. This leads naturally to the ques- 
tion of harmony in colour, which is essential to the selec- 
tion and arrangement of a scheme for furnishing a room. 

By harmony is meant agreement or concord. When 
there is perfect agreement, complete harmony results 
and a somewhat monotonous condition is felt. In mu- 
sic the major scale is the simplest expression of tonal 
relation. A composition wholly in the major chord, 
without any introduction of the so-called accidental, is 
simple, somewhat primitive and, to most people, a bit 
tiresome. A knowledge of the right time and the right 
way to use the accidental, or the unexpected idea, en- 
ables one to add the charm of subtlety and to increase 
the interest. 

A room presents an admirable opportunity for the 
working out of this idea. The novice, or even the ar- 
tist, should know the law and be able to obey it perfectly 
before he may break it. A deviation from the estab- 
lished form in any expression is the so-called poet's li- 
cense, or artist's license, granted to the masters of the 
situation and not to the rank and file of the uninformed. 



It is essential that harmony be accepted, not only as 
the desirable criterion, but also as the basic idea for all 
effective composition. Colour harmony, like harmony 
in sound, is based upon tonal relationships. There are 
generally conceded to be two kinds those of likeness 
and those of contrast or difference. This likeness is 
sometimes called analogy or relationship or natural 
agreement. It may be illustrated with the colour 
green, which is a union of yellow and blue in equal 
force. Green is, therefore, as much related to yellow as 
to blue, and is one-half related to each. It is, therefore, 
somewhat harmonious with each from the outset. 

Blue green is three parts blue and one part yel- 
low, thus being in closer harmony with blue than with 
yellow. It may be used with yellow because it has one 
part at least in common, and is therefore related to it, 
though in the quality of harmony it is not so closely as- 

Yellow green, on the other hand, is more harmonious 
with yellow than with blue because of its component 
parts. Yellow, it will be seen, is a common element in 
yellow green, green, and blue green. Therefore, these 
four form what is known as a related or analogous har- 
mony in colour. Any two, three, or the whole four 
selected in their proper values with right intensity rela- 
tions become a colour harmony of the first kind or the 
likeness type. If yellow be considered with yellow 
orange, orange, and red orange, it forms a family rela- 
tionship in which two, three, or four tones may form a 

Normal yellow and normal red, or normal yellow and 
normal blue, are not related and may, therefore, not be 



considered together in any one of these groups. Yet 
if red is the standard colour chosen, red orange, orange, 
and yellow orange are each related to it, and a third 
analogous family is seen. If blue, blue green, green, 
and yellow green are chosen a fourth group appears. 

The same thing is true in the consideration of purples. 
Blue, blue purple, purple, and red purple form a group; 
red, red purple, purple, and blue purple form another 

This method of producing a colour harmony is the 
simplest because the colour tones are themselves related 
in their inherent makeup. .Even if two or more of them 
appear in quite intense tones^a concord or agreement in 
natural forces makes their harmonizing appear simpler, 
although it is in reality cruder, and it is generally very 
temperamental in its choice and use. 

If one intuitively chooses schemes in house decoration 
in which blue, blue green, green and yellow green dom- 
inate, it is apt to be for temperamental or climatic 
reasons, or, perchance, because of too much light in the 
particular locality in which the problem is worked out. 
If the soft browns, tans, or buffs in the realm of red 
orange, orange, and yellow orange are selected, the same 
condition? of temperament or location probably in- 
fluenced their choice. 

The introduction of the complementary colour would 
necessarily bring in the three or four elements of colour 
possibility. The analogous scheme never presents 
this chance. With the analogous scheme, however, it 
is possible to introduce complementary small notes or 
areas which may be called the accidentals in the estab- 
lished colour scheme. 



The second phase of colour harmony is known as com- 
plementary, this being harmony of contrast. Full in- 
tense complements are dissimilar in every particular. 
No part of yellow or its qualities is found in purple, no 
quality of blue in orange, nor of red in green. As full 
intense normal colours these are totally unrelated and 
are the most inharmonious possible colour tones when 
used next to each other without any separation by a 
neutral tone. Nothing can be cruder, harsher, or more 
commonplace than a rug in red and green. With these 
colour tones in juxtaposition it is impossible for the eye 
to accept the resulting condition, and every one knows 
the vibration or blurred effect produced by an attempt 
to accommodate the eye to such a colour combination. 

The same is true of orange and blue and purple and 
yellow, though, perhaps, in a somewhat lesser degree 
because of the luminosity quality of colour which is to 
be considered later. 

Neutralization, or the use of neutralized colour tones 
in complements, is the method by which harmony is 
obtained. One-half neutral green and one-half neutral 
red are harmonious because each has introduced into it 
one-half of the other colour qualities of the spectrum. 
The one-half neutral colours may be supplemented with 
other tones of the same colours, more or less neutralized, 
and the harmony remains. It is a question of the de- 
gree of inter-relationships in the number of tones used, 
their relative areas, and the juxtaposition of tones ap- 
pearing in the composition. Full intense colours should 
not be brought near each other. The less intense are 
more harmonious when closely associated. Those still 
less intense are the best backgrounds for the exploitation 


of the more intense ones. The small areas of intense 
colour show best and are strongest in their emphasis 
against the more neutralized ones of the complementary 

Concrete instances of the application of the comple- 
mentary scheme to specific rooms will be given during 
the discussion of such rooms in later chapters. As a 
working basis, however, it is essential to know the terms 
employed, and to recognize the use and misuse of these 
fundamental methods of creating colour harmonies. 

A third type, still under the head of harmony of 
contrast, is called the triad scheme. This scheme in- 
volves the choice and use of three colour tones selected 
from the spectrum based on the equilateral triangle 
and it requires an intricate knowledge of neutralization, 
localization of areas, and emphasis distribution. It is a 
scheme too difficult to explain clearly in this fundamen- 
tal treatment of colour. The two types of harmony 
first discussed are those most generally in use and are 
sufficient for all ordinary problems if understood and 

All are not alike sensitive to colour appeal. Each 
one of us differs from all others in how much or 
what will give us just sufficient stimulation. It is a 
constant source of psychological interest to adjust to 
each person's taste and needs the colours used. This 
is an individual problem and can be solved successfully 
only when the decorator sees first the person whose 
tastes and needs are to be consulted. The question of 
materials must next be considered, and then the decora- 
tor must bring into use all his knowledge of colour 
forces. In this way he will arrive at the best result 



both as regards the pleasure and comfort of his client 
and the further growth of his own colour appreciation. 

There is still one element of power which a colour 
tone possesses that it may be well to consider at this 
point. By the arrangement of the spectrum circuit, 
yellow, being the nearest to light or white, is the lightest 
normal colour in value. It is the first colour tone in 
sequence of values running from yellow to green, blue 
and purple on one side, and from yellow, orange and red 
to purple on the other. 

Purple is the darkest in value of the normal coloui 
tones and the nearest to black. Black, being the ab- 
sence of light and the absence of colour, is darkness, 
while purple approaches this blackness more nearly than 
any other. 

Light is the opposite element of darkness or shadow; 
therefore, yellow contains the greatest lighting power 
of any normal spectrum colour. While orange and 
green are of the same value in the spectrum circuit, 
orange has a greater lighting power because of the in- 
troduction of red, which is a greater light producer than 

The order, then, of this light-giving quality, which I 
shall call luminosity, may be stated as follows: yellow, 
orange, green, red, blue, and purple. 

The luminosity of a colour is worchy of consideration 
in interior decoration where the amount of light which 
the room receives is a matter for conservation. This 
would also be important when a light room is so glaringly 
bright that it is impossible to obtain desired results in 
colour keying. 

At the normal maturity point the relative luminosity 




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of colours runs approximately as follows: yellow 12; 
orange 9; green 7; red 5; blue 3; and purple 1. While 
these numbers are not exact, they are near enough for 
practical purposes in determining what effect luminosity 
has on the choice of colour. 

Artificial light, shining through a yellow shade lined 
with white, has a much more penetrating and far-reach- 
ing effect than the same light shining through a green 
shade lined with white, the textures of the material 
being the same. If blue or purple were used, the light- 
ing effect would be greatly lessened, in fact it would be 
in the above mentioned ratio, were the colours of nor- 
mal hue and intensity. If purple is used, particularly 
blue purple, with artificial light, representing nearly a 
yellow orange, the light not only fails to do its work 
as an illuminating agent, but it becomes neutralized, 
grayed, softened and destroyed. 

Any one interested in seeing results of this quality 
power should experiment with different full intense 
colours and the same light, noticing the effect of each 
upon adjacent objects in the room. It must also be 
observed that the quality of the light filtered through 
these different colour tones is changed or modified 
greatly in hue and value, and also frequently in in- 
tensity, thereby creating a new light which will in turn 
modify the colours of all objects upon which it shines. 

Far too little care is given to the selection and use of 
colour as it is affected by lighting. 

A knowledge of the principles of relationship, result- 
ing from a study of hue, value and intensity is the key 
to a right choice of colour schemes. It will insure the 
production of any colour effect desired. 



The danger of upsetting completely the room scheme 
by the use of the wrong colour in a lamp shade, the 
wrong window hangings, or any other thing through 
which light is filtered, is increased tenfold when the 
background is too intense in colour. Remember that the 
background of a room must be less intense than the ob- 
jects which are to appear against it, or the objects 
themselves lose their force as decorative things. 

It is well probably to notice here a reason for the one 
striking difference between a warm and cold background 
in its general colour effect. 

All good decorators and artistic people in general 
know that there is a pleasanter general aspect in a room 
where the background is keyed to yellow or orange 
rather than to green or blue; that is if the background is 
gray, or so nearly so that it seems to be gray. It is 
difficult if the gray is a blue gray, or in other words a 
neutralized blue, to get between the objects of furniture 
and the room a general effect of colours keyed together. 
On the other hand, if the gray is a yellow gray or orange 
gray, be it never so nearly neutral, there seems to be in 
this colour itself an invitation to furnishing objects to 
become a part of the general scheme of colour. 

This is due to two facts: first, all wood naturally 
falls into the warm side of the spectrum, highly neutral- 
ized. Floors are usually treated in warm colour, and 
often many of the other decorative colours in the room 
are on the warm side of the spectrum. This establishes 
a common element or a relationship which at once in- 
vites harmony. If into such a room blues or greens are 
introduced, it is usually in upholstery, hangings, rugs, 
or other decorative features, and one can afford to em- 


phasize the decorative feature by exactly that contrast, 
while the constructive features would outline in an ugly 
manner against the background if the same contrast 
were introduced in their case. 

Another reason why the warm tones are in general 
more satisfactory is that the kind of reflected light which 
they radiate as natural light, which is very often cool, 
cold, and forbidding, is reflected from them. It also 
simplifies keying with shades when artificial lighting is 

This explanation will make it easier for any one who 
feels the lack of relationship existing between furnish- 
ings and background to select or treat backgrounds in 
such a way that the furnishings of the room are more 
harmonious. They may thus without effort be drawn 
into the general scheme of unity in colour which every 
good room must express. 

There is one other aspect of colour that we must touch 
upon here so that the thought of colour as it relates to 
the decorative idea may be more nearly complete. If, 
however, each subject were explained and illustrated in all 
its possible phases, it would require a separate volume. 

History is a record of the lives or activities of peoples 
of an earlier time and of the civilization they have 
evolved. It is expressed in literature, music, architec- 
ture, sculpture, mrniture, textiles, and also in the lesser 
crafts. Its art expression has been unlike in different 
eras, and quite dissimilar in the case of diverse nations, 
while individuals of the same nation have frequently 
shown distinct variations. 

Perhaps the national feeling for a type of expression 
may be as easily seen in colour as in any form of expres- 



sion. How this national preference, when acting with 
other concrete forces, has produced periods in art and 
historical or decorative styles, is a matter for later con- 
sideration. Now, however, it is pertinent to see some- 
thing of the way colour has expressed the standardized 
quality of feeling which a nation possessed at the time 
the period form was crystallized. 

The people of the Spanish Peninsula have for many 
centuries been quite unmixed, since the Moorish in- 
vasion, with races of different blood. Different ideals 
and customs, native instincts, climatic conditions, par- 
tial isolation and the religious and social practices of 
these people have all tended to establish and maintain 
certain unbroken traditions in all forms of expression. 
The result of traditional living, inherited and pro- 
moted by environment, tends to establish a national 
temperament. We all recognize the extreme fond- 
ness of such races for intense colours and almost 
always colours on the warm side of the spectrum cir- 
cuit. The use of yellow, red, and orange to excite the 
already infuriated bull is one of the visible manifesta- 
tions of the conscious knowledge on the part of the 
people of the effect on the animal instinct of these warm 
colour combinations. Colour is a stimulant to the 
sesthetic sense. It is certain that this race of people 
is stimulated by these colours more than by cold colours; 
hence the choice of red, yellow, gold, orange, etc., in 
so much of the art expression of their period styles. 

The natives of Italy are a far less homogeneous 
people. Southern Italy so thoroughly Greek at times 
as to be almost a part of Greece itself, and influenced 
always by the Orient and the African Barbary states 




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has the Oriental colour ideas prevailing in its earlier 
art expressions as well as in its colour choice of to-day. 
Northern Italy, on the contrary, less influenced by the 
Greek and the Orient, less mixed in blood with those 
countries, more open always to invasion from the north, 
and more blended and involved with the Teutonic 
idea, has developed a love for cooler colours. It per- 
haps exhibits a wider range, or at least a more refined 
conception of relationships in values and intensities. 

French consciousness combines the colour prefer- 
ences of more peoples, gathered from a broader range 
of area, and a wider scope in kind. There is also a 
native tendency to amalgamate these in a greater de- 
gree than among any other living people. France, 
always susceptible to new forms of expressing the 
aesthetic idea, gave birth to and developed Gothic 
thought, accepted and digested the Italian Renaissance, 
and developed its own distinct period styles. It de- 
stroyed the monarchic expression of those styles and 
built a new republic which has inexhaustible mines of 
art wealth accumulated since the tenth century to draw 
upon as an adequate means of expressing modern ideas. 

This explains why the French have long been supreme 
in the realm of the fine arts as well as in the applied or 
practical arts of life. They are adepts in the solution 
of problems of artistic expression in furnishings, cloth- 
ing, and the use of accessory objects. 

The qualities of the English are so at variance with 
the French that but to mention their character and 
their ideals produces in the mind quite a different 
conception. One is reminded at once of those qualities 
that have made the English styles less flippant, less 



changeable, less erratic in value change, more general 
in hue appreciation and more sombre in intensity re- 
lation than those of any of the other nations that we 
have mentioned. 

In like manner, it would be simple enough to see 
why the Netherlands, Flanders, Germany, or any other 
country has developed a special liking for or tendency 
to the use of some particular gamut of colour. The 
reason for the choice is always found in the quality of 
the consciousness of the people who are to use colour. 

One instinctively selects that symbol in any field 
which most clearly illustrates or describes the idea which 
he wishes to convey. If a highly neutralized colour is 
more restful than a more intense one, and I desire rest, 
when intense colours and neutralized ones are before 
me, I instinctively select the neutralized one. It is, of 
course, implied that I realize the force of the symbol. 

If light, bright blues, pinks, and yellows express 
anything, they express light-hearted, youthful, rather 
flippant and old-fashioned feminine attributes. When 
a man looks about for a colour scheme for his library, 
den, or sleeping-room, he instinctively leaves such things 
alone. They do not express his qualities, nor those 
with which he desires to concern himself when he wishes 
to concentrate on his work, or to sleep and rest. 

We, the people of the United States of America, 
are the most conglomerate of all peoples. We have, 
without having had time to amalgamate the char- 
acteristics of any people, received all peoples with open 
arms, until we are a nation one hundred million strong 
and represent nearly every form and grade of civiliza- 
tion. Naturally we are a people of many minds, many 


ideas, with distinctively individual and peculiar quali- 
ties, striving to be a nation. Our national colour ex- 
pression can be nothing short of every colour available. 
We do not limit ourselves in any other field. We can- 
not limit ourselves in the range of colours used. 

Because this is true, it is of the greatest importance 
that we seek to understand from every possible source 
what qualities may be expressed by different combina- 
tions, and learn to use those combinations to express 
individual ideas in moderation and with discretion. 

But even this is not the most important thing to 
know. A people is mentally and that means morally, 
intellectually, and ethically made up of its inherited 
tendencies and whatever is taken into consciousness 
through the five senses. Environment is a mighty 
factor in the development of a people whose esthetic 
sense is commensurate with the task before them of 
maintaining a commercial relationship which is thrust 
upon them by the very nature of their existence. Not 
only must we have the aesthetic quality in order that it 
may appear in our products, but we demand this quality 
as a natural means of refinement and culture .Its function 
is to satisfy the inherent desire for beauty which nature 
has decreed shall be a part of man's general makeup. 

To historic periods, then, we must turn not only to 
know their structural forms, their decorative ideas, and 
their finished art objects, but to understand their colour 
as scientifically, logically and sensibly as we know their 
other forms of expression. To express the Tudor period 
in the colours of Louis XVI is as impossible a task as it 
would be for Queen Elizabeth to impersonate Marie 




THE term "design" has generally meant the choice and 
arrangement of certain shapes or forms to produce a 
decorative effect. It should include not only form but 
colour, or rather colour and form, for without colour 
there is no form. 

If all objects were exactly the same colour tone it 
would be impossible to see where one object left off and 
the other began. In fact, there would be no shapes or 
forms to discuss. The greater the colour contrast 
in hue, value, or intensity, or any two or three of these 
qualities, the more clearly defined is the form arrange- 
ment which these objects produce. 

The real recognition of form is a mental process, 
and it is sufficient to remark here that this is a compar- 
ison of previously acquired ideas. Form is not quickly 
perceived through the sense of sight like colour. 
This makes the study of form more involved and 
perhaps, in many cases, less easily understood at 

Design or composition includes, then, the choice and 
arrangement of colours, forms and lines with a unit as 
the desired result. This unit may be the exterior of a 
huge cathedral, the interior of any room, the individual 


unit used in any one of these, or whatever in itself ex- 
presses the unit idea. 

As has already been noted, the structure is the 
fundamental reason for all decorated things. The 
build or structure determines the form. The form, then, 
conversely, is the result of structural lines of certain 
kinds used in certain combinations to represent in- 
dividual ideas. When we realize that everything de- 
pends upon the structural idea it is much easier to see 
relationships between shapes or forms in furnishing 
construction and the room in which they are to be used, 
than if we see parts of furnishing objects or colours or 
decorations only. 

An Italian chair of the early fifteenth century is 
built on horizontal and vertical lines. Its construc- 
tion is rectangular and for its beauty it depends upon 
its simplicity, its exquisite proportion, and its consistent 
decorative additions. In no field of chair construction 
has there been a result so dignified, formal, stable, 
consistent, sincere, and architecturally connected with 
the house as this beautiful expression of the early 
Italian Renaissance. The very lines or structure of 
this chair repeat the lines of room construction. 

The same fine feeling for proportion, structural like- 
ness, simplicity and consistency is found in the cabinets, 
tables, and other objects of furniture during this period 
of expression. With objects like these it is easy enough 
to recognize an element harmonizing with the struc- 
ture of a room, its side walls, its floor and its ceiling. 

On the other hand, with furniture of the period of 
Louis XV in France, where the boundary of every 
structural part is a curved line of the most subtle char- 



acter, it is far more difficult to establish relations of 
harmony between it and the constructive lines of a 
modern house. It is the character, or kind of line 
which bounds these forms, that I ask you to notice 
particularly now. 

Very often textiles, wall covers and other objects 
present exactly the same difficulty. A chair is to 
become a decorative motif in a room as a background, 
or a piece of ornament is to become a decorative motif 
on a textile rug or article of furniture. Either by plac- 
ing or by its structural lines it must harmonize with 
the room, with the articles of furniture, and with the 
textile or other object upon which it is to appear as a 
decorative unit. Often harmonious motifs are wholly 
unrelated to the object upon which they are placed, and 
become glaringly undecorative because their entire line 
or form effect has no common harmonizing elemental 
line in concord with the article which it purports to 

It will be seen that the structure is the reason for the 
decoration, that the decoration must conform to the 
structure, and that there must be a common element of 
harmony between the original form and the decorative 
object used with it. 

The first principle of form I shall call consistent struc- 
tural unity. The fagade of a house is an excellent 
example for structural and decorative study. The verti- 
cal and horizontal lines bounding it at least on two of 
these sides are emphasized, supported and strengthened 
by cornices. There is a change in treatment at the 
edges, brought about by the introduction of doors and 
windows whose structures are in harmony with that of 


the side of the house, and sometimes with other objects 
related in the same way. 

Not only, however, are these objects related by their 
general form to the house, of which they are a part, but 
they are, if pleasing, so placed, when seen in groups, 
that their bounding lines are horizontal and vertical. 
When this form does not obtain for example, if there 
is one window, then another, and then another lower 
still there is a feeling of incongruity and unpleasant- 
ness arising from an arrangement which does not har- 
monize with the general structure form of the facade. 

Brought into the house the application of these 
principles is legion. Most persons see and feel quickly 
the violation of such a rule on the outside, but fail ut- 
terly to grasp the need of the same relationship on the 

Let us take first the floor of the room. This is an 
oblong or a square, infrequently modified by a curved 
window or some other curved line of unnatural growth. 
This establishes something of the line of the furniture, 
but something still more of the arrangement of this fur- 
niture as to its place on the floor. 

Now let us consider the rug. A common error is to 
throw the rug particularly if there are several in the 
room upon the floor in an oblique or cat-a-cornered posi- 
tion so that no line boundary of the rug is parallel to or 
in harmony with the bounding lines of the floor. This 
immediately establishes a new decorative idea, built on 
top of the original one. Chairs, tables, divans and other 
furniture must be placed either with the structural sug- 
gestion of the rugs, or with the original structural ar- 
rangement of the room. Both lines cannot be followed. 



One must dominate. The only sensible thing is to 
place the rugs in harmony with the structure of the 
floor; then let the tables, divans, chairs, cabinets and 
other articles of furniture be placed in the same hori- 
zontal and vertical structural relationship. 

This does not mean that every article of furniture has 
to rest against the wall of the room, flat and straight. 
It means that many times the furniture had better so 
repose. For example, instead of placing the upright 
piano or the dresser across the corner of the room, find 
a place on the wall where it belongs and place it there, 
structurally, as if it were a part of the establishment. 
It then becomes a decorative feature. 

Often a long table is best, as will appear in a later 
chapter, when its end touches the wall and its length 
projects into the room. On one side a divan may be 
placed, its back against the table. This conforms to the 
structural lines of the room, horizontal and vertical, and 
at the same time is perfectly practical. 

Chairs particularly straight-line chairs when not 
against the wall may be placed parallel with tables, and 
grouped in such a way that their general structure lines 
are parallel with the original horizontal and vertical 
lines of the room. It is this matter of grouping wisely 
that makes a room effective so far as the form relations 
in the furniture are concerned. 

This does not, by any means, imply that every article 
of furniture must be at right angles with the lines of the 
room and with each other. It means that the domi- 
nating furnishings of a room must be so related, or the 
principle of the room as a structural unit is violated. 
When this happens the foundation is laid for unrest, 


pandemonium and an ultimate destruction of every- 
thing pleasant in the way of a decorative thought. 

Chairs are often placed near other chairs or a divan, 
for purposes of conversation, or these are grouped near 
a light in order to make work possible as well as reading 
or writing. These deviations from structural unity are, 
however, made for a reason. It is because of some need 
that they exist and not because the arrangement is 
more "homey and cozy." 

If everything is properly distributed on the floor it 
helps greatly in the treatment of the wall. The verti- 
cal lines of the wall when seen with the horizontal lines 
of the floor form a new problem of arrangement. The 
walls, too, are more nearly opposite the eye level when 
sitting or standing and, therefore, require even a stricter 
adherence to the principle of structural unity than does 
the floor. 

Even if each article of furniture is properly placed, one 
must be careful to see that its contour or bounding lines 
do not create forms more erratic and likely to compel 
attention than do the objects themselves as a whole. 
If this is the case their bounding lines must be simplified 
somehow. Grills may be taken off, unpleasant carving 
removed. Expressionless curved bracketing, such as 
appears on piazzas, and much modern furniture should 
also be banished. In a room the objects themselves 
must be reduced to a consistent structural appearance 
before they can become in any sense a part of the wall. 

A departure from this structural form if desired is 
easily made by using ornament, books, pottery, and 
other lesser forms of art expression upon articles of fur- 
niture or adjacent to them. The question of how many 



of these to use at a time and how many pictures, and 
what ones are appropriate will be considered in later 
chapters. Suffice it to say, now, that whatever is used 
should either be structurally in harmony with all the other 
objects, or there should be few enough articles non-struc- 
turally related to make it possible for one to grasp the 
feeling of the room and to remain content without a 
constant mental effort to fathom the mysteries of the 
maze into which he is thrust as he enters. 

Perhaps the most flagrant abuse of the structural idea 
is the custom, so long prevalent, of hanging pictures by 
one wire, each end of which is attached to the frame, 
while both sides converge, at a point where the picture 
hook is attached to the moulding. Any line which is 
out of harmony with the structural idea of the unit 
should be so for purposes of emphasis. When any un- 
usual line, unusual shape, or unusual direction is intro- 
duced it is for the purpose of calling attention to that 
line, shape or direction because of its beauty or its use. 
There can certainly be no other reason for calling atten- 
tion to any particular thing in a room. Since the room 
will probably have no lines in harmony with the trian- 
gular one thus created, and since the picture hook is 
presumably less decorative than the picture itself 
(though this is not always true), there can be no reason 
why such a line should be introduced at the expense of 
the entire wall, to say nothing of the constructive value 
of the picture itself. 

A single picture wire should be passed through two 
hooks about one inch from the top of the picture to be 
hung. This wire, passing through the two screw eyes, 
will leave the two ends free and the wire adjustable. 


Use two picture hooks, tying one to each end of the 
wire and hang the wires vertically. They will then be 
parallel with the edge of the frame, with the casings of 
the windows, doors and other structural features of the 
room. In this way even ugly picture wires almost es- 
cape notice. If they do not they should be toned to 
the general wall colour. 

Window curtains very much draped create many 
lines out of harmony with the windows. This is the 
reason why under present conditions the best decorators 
are modifying considerably the period methods of hang- 
ing curtains, and using them straighter, with straighter 
valance and less erratic line combinations in the making. 

This principle of structural unity must be applied to 
the selection and arrangement of every article, and 
violations of the idea may after the meaning of the 
principle is thoroughly understood be considered for 
reasons of emphasis ; but study how, and why and where 
before introducing any unrelated forms in matters of 
decorative structural arrangement. 

A second principle of form is that shapes and sizes 
should be consistent. Its analysis has to do with the 
selective element in form and size as well as the problem 
of arranging these selected forms in the most harmoni- 
ous and agreeable manner possible. 

The bounding edges of forms or shapes are lines. 
These lines are made always at the junction of two 
colour tones or are formed by one colour touching an- 
other. Wherever this occurs a line is created. Every 
time colour tones change for any reason whatever, a 
new shape is begun or the shape considered begins to 
change and a lined condition exists. 



Lines, as well as forms, are an important element in 
the consideration of composition. Good composition 
demands that these forms and lines should contain cer- 
tain elements of likeness or harmony, and that they be 
so placed as to create this condition. 

It is apparent then that too many colours, too much 
cut up in small areas, must result in the creation of too 
many shapes and lines. This tends to involve the prob- 
lem in such a way that simplicity and repose in a room 
is well nigh impossible. 

The kind of shapes and the direction of lines are as 
important as the number of them. Straight lines, which 
mark the shortest distance between two points, by their 
very nature seem simple, direct, forceful and some- 
what structural. These qualities are the ones which the 
straight-line formation or construction should suggest, 
and where the feeling for them is not acute it is because 
lines of arrangement, as well as of pattern design, meet 
each other at obtuse and acute angles in such a way as 
to create a disagreeable feeling of opposition in line 
direction. Patterns in rugs and textiles often do this, 
as, in fact, the objects themselves are quite likely to do 
in the room arrangement in which the first principle of 
form that is, consistent structural unity is not con- 
scientiously followed. 

This effect of straight lines running in a slanting di- 
rection into other straight lines excepting where the 
angles created are right angles is ugly, non-structural 
and, consequently, usually uncomfortable in feeling 

Curved lines change their direction at every point. 
There are in general three classes of these lines, as 
follows : 


The arc of the circle changes its direction equally 
at every point. This is the most monotonous of curved 
lines, the simplest and most easily sensed. It lacks 
variety, and when used too frequently betrays lack of 
feeling for subtlety in line. 

The arc of the ellipse, however, is more likely to 
change its direction at different points in the circum- 
ference, and presents a selective chance in line quite 
impossible in the arc of the circle. It is interesting, 
therefore, more subtle, and has greater sesthetic pos- 

The third class of curve is taken from the oval, and 
presents the greatest opportunity of all for fine rela- 
tionships in variety of curve subtlety and in feeling for 
direction as well as for grace in line movement. 

This curve of the oval appears in pottery and vase 
forms, in the general contour of ornament, and in other 
constructive curve-lined objects in the work of all na- 
tions where a fine sesthetic sense has been developed. 
The Greek, the Japanese, the High Renaissance in 
France, express their subtle relationships of curve in 
this type of line. 

Mention of these three classes of curves is made 
here that one may become more sensitive to line as it 
appears in ornament and as it marks the boundary 
structural line of objects which are to be used as dec- 
orative motifs. The keener one's perception becomes 
in any field of expression the sooner will he realize 
the difference between the beautiful and the ugly, the 
sesthetic and the mechanical, the monotonous and the 
subtle. This perception is the key to the enjoyment of 
sesthetic relationships. 



Forms, as they are created by lines, may also be char- 
acterized as straight-lined and curve-lined forms. The 
wall surface, the floor and the ceiling are generally of 
the first type. Some articles of furniture, pieces of 
pottery, pictures, clocks and other ornament are of the 
second class, and not infrequently a curved line in the 
form of an alcove, a bay window or arched ceiling 
forms a secondary consideration in a straight-lined 

When forms have a likeness which is more apparent 
than their difference, they at once become harmonious. 
A square or rectangle is bounded by four straight lines 
with four right angles, the only difference being that 
the square has four equal sides while the oblong has 
two pairs of equal sides, each pair differing from the 

An oblong in a vertical position, like the side of a 
room, which is taller than its length, or a blank wall 
space between windows or adjacent to a door open- 
ing with a height exceeding its width, furnishes an 
opportunity for experiment with related and unrelated 

A picture, for example, taller than it is wide, is 
a vertical oblong. Place it at equal distances from 
each of the sides of your wall space and about opposite 
the eye level, and you will sense a likeness in the ratio 
of the sides of the picture to the sides of the oblong 
space in which it is placed. This is related, harmoni- 
ous and comfortable, if its size is good, in the space 
upon which it appears. 

In the same position place a square picture and 
the effect is a little less pleasing, unless adjacent to or 


in some way related with it are other squares so that 
its distinctive form is not so apparent. 

If one happens to have an elliptical picture and a 
round one, or even an elliptical vase, and a round clock, 
he should try each of these in the same position. He 
will see that the ellipse with a long vertical axis is more 
harmonious with the vertical space than if he should 
turn the ellipse so that the long axis would be hori- 
zontal. In that case one feels the opposition of the 
horizontal axis to the vertical line of the boundary 
space, and rebels against that structural motion, right 
and left, which is opposed to the vertical one of the 
wall space. This would be equally true, of course, of 
a horizontal oblong picture in the same space. 

The circle, the most monotonous of curve-lined 
figures, whose circumference changes its direction at 
every point equally, has no quality in common with 
the vertical wall space. It is, therefore, quite unrelated 
to it as a decorative spot unassociated with other ob- 
jects. If the wall space were exactly, square, the round 
picture or clock would have the relationship of equal 
diameters and not be so inharmonious as in the vertical 

It is hard, however, to harmonize in any way a round 
clock, round picture, round medallion or other circular 
object upon the wall. If a round picture must be used, 
mat it with the most inconspicuous tone, relate this 
tone to the frame, and make both mat and frame square 
so that the environment of the picture may be in har- 
mony with its background. The wall and the picture 
itself graduate the circle into the square by such stages 
of colour that the transition becomes almost, if not 



entirely, unobservable. The harder or more distinct 
the line transition, the less possibility of harmony in 
the result. 

It is on the wall in particular that we must avoid 
these totally unrelated shapes. On a mantel, a cab- 
inet, or a bureau such forms may appear. Not being 
fastened to the wall, and no attempt being made to 
have them seem to be a part of it, they become decora- 
tive as seen against it, because they are supported by 
and related to the thing upon which they stand, rather 
than to the wall itself. 

The wall, then, is the background, not a part of 
the object which is seen decoratively against it. Its 
foundation or resting-place rather is the thing with 
which the object belongs. 

A point might be made here in regard to the position 
of pictures and tapestries on the wall. Unless the 
tapestry is of sufficient size to nearly cover the wall, so 
that it seems to be a part of it, there should be some 
article of furniture or structural fact with which it may 
seem to group. 'This is even more essential in the case 
of pictures. 

If a picture is hung so high that it seems to be un- 
related to the cabinet, dresser, mantel, chair or other 
object, it immediately becomes a foreign object ap- 
plied or nailed to a vertical surface. This is uncom- 
fortable, and usually is not decorative, particularly if 
the picture is heavily framed. It should be hung low 
enough to be related to an article of furniture and to 
form some part of a group. The single isolated idea 
is always more or less uncomfortable and certainly un- 
duly conspicuous in most instances. 
68 " 


The contour of furniture is a subject properly re- 
lated to the idea of consistent forms. It often occurs 
that both straight-lined and curve-lined furniture are 
essential to the spirit of a modern room. 

In no period except that of Louis XV has a furniture 
construction been worked out in which every construc- 
tive line is a curve. In this period straight-lined struc- 
ture was unknown and curved lines were brought to their 
highest possible state of efficiency as expressions of 
refined and artistic composition. A Louis XV chair, 
then, is totally unrelated in its form to the Louis XVI 
chair whose seat and back may be rectangular. 

The period of Louis XVI frequently gives us chairs 
in which the seats are curved, the top of the back shows 
an arc of a circle or an ellipse, while the entire back is 
a curve-lined figure, although the legs are vertical and 
straight and the general feeling is one of an upright, rec- 
tangular object. There is an element of likeness between 
these last chairs described and the Louis XV, which 
under right conditions makes them harmonious and de- 
lightful together. If the perfectly straight-lined, rectan- 
gular Louis XVI chair is the only one in the room, the 
Louis XV chair can hardly be said to be closely enough 
related to be probable in such a combination. 

The simplest expression is the one in which one type 
of form is not only dominant but preeminent. The 
early Italian Renaissance, with its formal, stately, 
upright chairs; with cabinets, every line of which is 
straight, vertical and horizontal; with spacing and 
arrangement in which vertical and horizontal line 
forms are the only ones used, while other articles of 
furniture are based upon the same plan, gives one a 



chance to see what is really the effect of a room in which 
only one general form is considered. 

The same idea has been exploited in this country 
during the last twenty-five years under the name of the 
"Mission Style." This Mission Style is the return to 
the straight-lined structural construction by a people 
completely worn out and exhausted, having their 
vision bedimmed by the meaningless, erratic and in- 
artistic curves of the black-walnut period. In sheer 
self-defence they have intuitively grasped at the Mission 
idea, not because it is especially beautiful in propor- 
tion, practical or decorative in its effect, but because 
there must be some way to rid the country of the jig- 
saw bracketing of the modern wooden house. A maze 
of grill work had found its way into the interior, over 
doors, mantels, mirrors, etc., and it was necessary to 
eliminate the atrocities in curve-lined furniture, which 
factories were turning out under the impression that 
something original was being done. 

The Mission Style has done its work and is passing, 
but it is worthy of special mention since it has called 
to the attention of this country the fact that simple 
related forms are essential to good taste in the expres- 
sion of the interior of an ordinary house. 

One must consider also in this connection the line 
formations due to ornament, abstract and otherwise, 
used decor atively in textiles and rugs. I have already 
called your attention to the impossible medallions of 
various shapes which occur too often in Oriental rugs. 
These forms are unrelated to the rug shape and to 
furniture shapes, and, in short, to everything with 
which they are associated. Because they are always 


more or less ugly in themselves, they must either not 
appear at all or, if they do appear, must be so subdued 
that their outline is discerned with the greatest dif- 

It sometimes happens that a round table must be 
used in a room. This is possible from the standpoint 
of function, in the dining-room, if over the table there 
is a decorative circular ceiling treatment, a circular 
chandelier if chandeliers are used or a curve-lined 
rug which may help to harmonize such a table with the 
straight-lined floor effect. In this case the colours 
chosen should be such that the transition in shape from 
table to floor will be less apparent because of the rug. 
If, however, the transition created is hard and apparent, 
then the rug pattern would better be of the floor shape 
since it gives no help in harmonizing unrelated forms. 

It may not be necessary to mention that a square 
lunch cloth on a round table is less harmonious than a 
round one, or that a round one on a square table is less 
harmonious than a square cloth. There are many 
other interesting applications of this rule to every 
article that may be decoratively used, but the reader 
will find interest in detecting things for himself and 
correcting the wrong usages as fast as the right ones 
seem better to him than the wrong ones. 

The second application of this principle, that which 
relates to consistent size, is more difficult to treat in a 
limited space. It has taken centuries for the Japanese 
to produce a national consciousness in which the feeling 
for the best and most subtle relationships hi size is in- 
tuitive. The Greeks gave one thousand years of con- 
centrated thought to finding the best way to develop 



ideal pure form, not only in the human figure, but in all 
phases of expression. This people, whose God was 
beauty, and whose beauty was truth in its highest form, 
presents, as no other people ever has, the tangible 
effects of a nation working unitedly for a common end 
namely, the realization, intellectually, of pure form. 

The Greek ideal brought out an art expression, par- 
ticularly in architecture and ornament, whose essential 
principles have been fundamental in the development 
of all succeeding expression, except perhaps the Gothic, 
which is the result of an entirely different ideal. So 
effectually was their scheme of education planned from 
youth to old age, and so carefully was the religious, 
political and social fabric woven, that these people 
became imbued with the one idea of creating beauty, 
which was the expression of divinity in its noblest form. 
To create or use an ugly thing was impossible with this 
code of life. Because of the psychological result which 
followed such training, the subtleties in shape and size 
of parts expressing a whole are still the criterion for 
architects and constructional designers in all fields of 
expression involving the classic idea. 

From buildings, architectural details, ornament, 
sculpture and the lesser crafts has come, quite con- 
sciously through the Renaissance, down to us the Greek 
relations in size which really furnished the key to their 
special excellence. 

Greek art, unlike that of other nations, is not an emo- 
tional one in which forms, lines and colours excite the 
aesthetic sense without thought; every size, shape and 
arrangement is the product first of an intellectual calcula- 
tion. That is what has made it possible to get at, some- 


what scientifically, the relationships in size which made 
the Greek objects standards upon which other nations 
have based their ideas of proportion. 

In the days of the High Renaissance in Italy Leonardo 
da Vinci and other great artists worked out, by measure- 
ments and by copy and by analytical and synthetical 
methods, certain statements of proportion which are 
helpful in modern times. One in particular has been 
known as the Golden Mean, the Greek Law, the Greek 
Deduction or the Ideal Proportion. 

This, of course, is an abstract idea, and to abstract 
spacing applies hi finding out interesting relationships. 
This statement of proportion originated in the ratio of the 
diameter of the top of the Doric or Ionic column to the 
diameter of its base, in the relative widths of spaces in 
the frieze of the Parthenon and other Greek temples, in 
the proportions of the various well-known ornaments, 
the vertical to the horizontal proportions, and even to the 
calculation of the proportions of the ideal human figure. 

Exact divisions, like the half, third, fourth, eighth, 
etc., are mechanical, are easily measured in inches, and 
easily grasped by the mind. Having no subtlety they 
lack the one feature that stimulates the imagination and 
lends interest to the object. 

The idea of variety, which is a consistent one, is fun- 
damental in all artistic things. Training in schools or 
in business, which leads to a constant creation, in any 
field, of purely mechanical things, blunts and stunts the 
aesthetic perception, destroying the ability to enjoy subtle 

The first point to note in this law is the fact that me- 
chanical divisions are not artistic ones. That halves, 



thirds and fourths are mechanical ones, and therefore, 
monotonous, so that the habitual consideration of them 
must result ultimately in a loss of power to appreciate 
more subtle ones. 

The second step in the evolution of the idea reveals 
that in the case of two objects, very unlike in size, each 
becomes more pronounced because of its association with 
the other. A very tall man seen with an exceedingly 
short one not only seems taller than he otherwise would, 
but by comparison makes the short man seem shorter 
than if he were seen by himself. 

Wherever these great contrasts occur, the mind fails 
to make any comparison between the two objects, sees 
no relationship whatever, and fails to feel satisfied. If 
they are totally unrelated they cannot be a part of a 
unit or a whole. The applications of this idea are 
legion in the choice of articles for the furnishing of a 

The third step is the perception of when it is that 
sizes or areas are nearly enough alike to be easily com- 
pared by the mind and sufficiently differing in size to be 
interesting because of their difference. This is the most 
vital point in the evolution of the idea. 

If a vertical oblong, say four and one-half inches high 
and two and three-fourths inches wide, is drawn and 
divided exactly in the centre by a horizontal line, two 
areas are created which are monotonous, mechanical 
and uninteresting. On another oblong of the same pro- 
portion a horizontal line may be drawn five-eighths 
of an inch from the bottom. Two areas will be created 
which are incomparable, inconsistent, unlike in their 
direction and inartistic in their feeling. If a third ob- 


long be drawn and the exact centre of the right-hand 
edge found, so that the right-hand vertical line is di- 
vided into two equal parts, then this same line divided 
into thirds, we have a basis for a horizontal-line division 
which will result in subtle and interesting areas for 
comparison. Select a point somewhere between the 
hah and third. It must not be a point exactly in the 
centre between the two, nor one which would divide 
the figure into thirds or quarters. The division must 
come at some uneven distance between the half and 




I. Two areas equal and monotonous 
II. Two areas unrelated and incomparable 
III. Two areas subtle, comparable and interesting 

third. Then draw a horizontal line dividing this oblong 
into two areas which are not equal, but which are so 
related as to seem comparable when seen together. 

These area divisions may be used in many ways in 
designing f agades of buildings, in the interior panelling of 
houses, and parts of doors and windows. They should 
be considered also with reference to the relations of 
these to each other, to furniture and its proportions and 



to decorative motifs as they are used upon any furniture 
or textile. 

The Greek law of areas or lines may be approximately 
stated in these words: "Two areas or lines are compara- 
ble, interesting, subtle and desirable when one of them 
is between one-half and two-thirds the area or length of 
the other." 

Any one interested in seeing the application of this 
idea to concrete things will find plenty of opportunity 
for comment and disapproval in the relation of windows 
to wall space when function would admit of a different 
arrangement; in the placing of plate rails in a room; in 
the widths and positions of dadoes; in the bands of 
rugs; in rugs as they relate to floor space; in panels on 
cabinets, chests and other articles of furniture; in motifs 
whose parts are totally unrelated because of badly 
chosen sizes; in dishes, in lamp bases with their shades, 
and other articles in every room in which the owner has 
never given a thought to subtle relationships. If more 
than two sizes are compared a ratio may be established 
between the smaller of the first two compared and a 
third size which is to be used. 

One of the most pleasing and simple applications of 
this rule is seen in a well-margined book page where the 
law of optics requires the widest margin at the bottom, 
the next at the outside, and narrower ones at the top and 
inside, thus presenting four well-related sizes in a field in 
which every one is interested and where the most uncul- 
tivated can see the result and sense its correct appli- 

We might extend the discussion to the relation of the 
size of the table cover to the table top, the position of 


the band to the edge of the china plate, or to any other 
lesser matters, but for the further application of this 
principle it may be well to allow the reader to extend his 
application as far as he can, in the hope of discovering 
new possibilities in realms not mentioned in the text. 




SPEAKING from the standpoint of appearance as it 
expresses rest, repose or artistic skill, no one term means 
so much as the word balance. In fact, the arrange- 
ment of colour tones, forms and lines in a perfectly bal- 
anced scheme will always result in the appearance of just 
these qualities named. It is difficult at first to appre- 
ciate how important this element is in room arrangement. 

The term balance means a perfect equalization of 
attractions, whatever the attractions may be, if they 
make an appeal through the sense which transmits them 
to the mind. The feeling for this quality is an instinct, 
inherent because man is a part of a created whole in 
which there are general laws touching every element of 
the universe. 

The law of gravitation plays a certain part in optical 
effects, and this attracting force, pulling all matter in a 
given direction, is one of the influences that affects the 
nature of man. This term attraction applied to the 
sense of sight is balance. Where a perfect balance ex- 
ists one experiences unconsciously a feeling of satis- 
faction which comes from a sense of rest and repose 
through finished action. 

Balance, then, may briefly be defined as that principle 
by which an equalization of attractions is obtained, or 
































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by which a sense of rest, repose or finished movement is 
produced. The feeling resulting from balanced condi- 
tions has in it the quality of rest and satisfaction be- 
cause nothing further having a sense appeal of attraction 
is presented to the mind. 

There are two types of balance which may be de- 

The first type of balance is known as bisymmetric. 
If a side wall entirely covered with one-tone wall paper 
has a vertical line drawn through its centre from top 
to bottom, this vertical line may be said to be the bal- 
ancing point for all objects right and left of this line in 
relation to the wall space. So long as the wall is cov- 
ered with one tone, no other thing appearing upon it 
or against it, it is in a balanced condition. That is, 
there is nothing on one side which makes a stronger 
appeal for attention than there is on the other. If one 
but drives a nail at the right of the line, and centres 
vision on the balancing line, he is at once invited by the 
presence of the nail to transfer his attention from the 
line to the nail. 

If this nail becomes a picture, an ornament, an object 
of furniture or a person standing against or adjacent 
to the wall, the desire to give attention in that direction 
is increased proportionately to the attractive qualities 
of the object under consideration. 

Returning to the first statement, in which a nail is 
placed at the right of the centre line : I shall restore the 
equilibrium and again find my wall balanced if I drive 
a nail of the same size, shape and colour exactly as 
far to the left of the centre line as the first one was to 
the right of the same line. 



If my purpose in driving these nails is to arrange 
upon the wall two pictures, I find in placing one at the 
right I have again, notwithstanding my nail, completely 
unbalanced the wall; that is, there is something on the 
right that by its shape, size, colour, position and human 
appeal bids me look, become interested, and remain 

Again, because I have placed a material thing on 
the right of this line, I have also added more matter 
to be unconsciously attracted by gravitation to the 
right side than I have to the left. This again, from 
another standpoint, unbalances the wall and makes 
the right side seem heavier or more drawn down than 
the left. If I wish to restore balance I must place on 
the second nail at the left a picture exactly equal in 
attraction to the one placed on the right, bearing in 
mind, of course, that each nail is as far from the centre 
line as the other. 

The reason for starting with the nail is not, of course, 
on the supposition that a nail is to become a part of 
the decorative scheme, but to lead the mind to see that 
even the nail, should it be left without a picture, or the 
hole in the wall made by the nail if not properly covered, 
becomes an attracting force, which may ultimately fig- 
ure in the destruction of balance on the wall. 

This centre line on a wall space is an important 
thing to reckon with in all cases before attempting to 
balance the wall. If the wall were again cleared and 
I should decide to put two chairs exactly alike, each 
equidistant from the centre line, I should have a bal- 
ance. If a cabinet be placed on the line so that exactly 
half falls to the right and half to the left; two chairs, 


exactly alike, one on each side of the cabinet, equidistant 
from the centre line and equidistant from the cornice 
upon the cabinet; a row of three pictures, half on either 
side the vertical line; at the ends of the cabinet two 
tall candlesticks, both alike and equidistant from the 
centre; in the centre of the cabinet a well-chosen dec- 
orative jar or piece of pottery, the wall will balance, 
having equal attractions in size, shape, colour and 
texture on each side of the vertical line. This type 
of balance is known as bisymmetric. 

The natural feeling one experiences from this type of 
balance is one of dignity and formality first. The very 
fact that one sees on each side of the centre exactly 
the same forms, colours and textures, makes the mental 
grasp of the situation easier, and consequently, in the 
simplest possible way, with the least mental effort, pro- 
duces the effect of dignity and formal arrangement. 

Repose is a second feeling which must come without 
conscious effort. This is perhaps in part because of 
the analogy between the arrangement and the law of 
gravitation, as it may be seen in the use of the ordi- 
nary weighing scales. When both pans of the weighing 
scales are empty the bar is horizontal and the scales 
are at rest. Throw into the scale a cube of iron weigh- 
ing one pound, and the scales are in motion, a diagonal 
position is created and rest is destroyed. Put into the 
other pan an iron cube of equal weight and size, and 
the weighing bar becomes again horizontal and the 
feeling of formal and dignified position returns, while 
the mental sensation of harmony with the law of grav 
itation is a natural sequence. 

The side wall arrangement described works in pre- 


cisely the same manner. Because of our associations 
with things in these relative positions they produce the 
sensations described. We are at once more or less 
affected, according to our sensitiveness, by such an ar- 
rangement, and more or less require this form to pro- 
duce the desired result. 

There are so many applications of this bisymmetric 
arrangement in all phases of expression that no ex- 
haustive treatment of them can be made. It may be 
suggested, however, that one's appreciation of the 
bisymmetric balance may be cultivated by searching the 
facades of buildings and their gable ends for the perfect 
bisymmetric arrangement. One may also arrange man- 
tels or bureau and dresser tops in bisymmetric form, 
placing furniture and decorative objects simply in these 
positions, creating vertical centre lines on which they 
may appear as balanced attractions. 

It will be seen in all applications of the principle that 
this, the simplest arrangement, requires the least 
subtle treatment, is a matter of intelligence rather 
than imagination, that it is formal enough for any 
condition and restful enough for any scheme. It is 
the easiest way out of ordinary problems of unrest in 

It must be admitted, however, that the constant use 
of bisymmetric treatment may result in a stiff effect and 
be a bit too formal, since it is rather monotonous and 
lacks in some ways the large imaginative opportunity 
of the more involved arrangement. 

The second kind of balance is known as the occult 
balance. This means simply a balance which is felt 
rather than one methodically or scientifically deter- 


mined. The occult balance may, it is true, be proven 
to be a balanced arrangement if one knows how to 
estimate the attractive force of the elements used in 
the scheme. It is, however, in general, a matter of 
aesthetic sense, acute feeling, or feeling and judgment 
combined, which is a matter of psychologic conclusion 
rather than of a material calculation. 

With the Japanese the sense for occult balance as 
a national asset has been so strongly cultivated by 
education and environment that their compositions, 
whether in books, vases of flowers, architectural or 
detail arrangements, unconsciously present the most 
subtle and charming occult balance known to modern: 

Those who are sufficiently familiar with the period 
of Louis XV to understand the arrangement of orna- 
ment used in wall panels, or the application of this 
ornament to articles of furniture following the same 
structural lines, will perceive the same refined sense 
for occult arrangement in which there is a feeling of 
perfect balance on either side the vertical line. In 
no case is there a bisymmetric arrangement where forms, 
sizes, colours and textures are unlike on either side 
this balance line. 

There are many other interesting national expres- 
sions in which the occult arrangement is the only one 
evolved through highly organized artistic skill in com- 

If the problem of a single wall arrangement is one of 
occult balance and one has the same cabinet, two 
chairs, two candlesticks and two or three pictures to 
place upon the wall, and must use them all while he may 



not use anything else, his problem becomes one of 
equalizing these attractions on either side the same 
vertical line. Naturally the cabinet will not balance 
one chair perhaps not two. As soon as the cabinet 
is increased in attractiveness by two candlesticks, it is 
less apt to balance two chairs, or one, all other things 
being equal. The pictures evidently must be so ar- 
ranged as to assist in this equalization of attractions, 
or else the other walls of the room must be taken into 
consideration with this one, and the problem become 
more involved. 

v For people who are not thoroughly practised, and 
not sure when a balance is perfectly arranged, nothing 
is more helpful when arranging side walls and single 
surfaces than to return to the weighing scale. 

In the old-fashioned steelyard there is a chance to 
illustrate the occult balance idea. The horizontal bar, 
with its movable weight from right to left, forms a 
lever, with the fulcrum at the point where a hook is 
fastened, to which articles of various gravity are ad- 
justed for weighing purposes. An iron weight is moved 
right and left along this bar until it exactly balances 
an object which is hung on the aforesaid hook. The 
heavier the package attached to the hook, the farther 
away from the fulcrum point the iron weight is moved. 
This weight increases in distance from the central 
balancing line as the attractive power of the parcel 
attached to the hook increases. 

Another familiar illustration of this idea in the 
law of gravitation is seen in the see-saw board. If a 
board, alike throughout its length, is placed across a 
fence as a fulcrum point, so that just half of it is on 


each side the fence, it rests in a horizontal position 
and is balanced. If I place a twenty-five-pound boy 
on one, and fail to adjust the boy or to place a weight 
upon the other end, the board at once loses its balanced 
effect and one end is thrown to the ground. If, on 
the other hand, I place at the same time a twenty-five- 
pound boy on each end, my board remains in perfect 
equilibrium as truly as if nothing were placed upon 
the board at all. 

My problem becomes complicated when I have a boy 
weighing fifty pounds and one that weighs twenty-five 
pounds to be placed upon this board, and still I desire 
the board to remain in a horizontal position and at rest. 
If I move the board so that there is twice as much length 
or distance on one side the fence as on the other, and 
place the boy weighing fifty pounds on the shorter 
end, and the one weighing twenty-five pounds on the 
longer end, I shall find my board resumes its normal rest 
position and will so remain. 

From these two illustrations three very important 
statements are derived. 

First. Equal attractions balance each other at an 
equal distance from the centre. 

Second. Unequal attractions balance each other at 
unequal distances from the centre. 

Third. Unequal attractions balance each other at 
distances which are in inverse ratio to their power of 

Applied to the side wall, this means that the stronger 
the object is in its power to attract, the more it tends 
to gravitate toward the centre or balancing line; the 
less attractive the object, the more it tends to recede 



from the centre; that two objects, one of which is 
much more attractive than the other, to balance on a 
single wall must be so placed that the more attractive 
of the two is nearer the centre than the less attractive 
one, and the less attractive is nearer the corner than 
the more attractive one, the exact difference apart 
depending upon the attractive power. This estab- 
lishes a balance, as has been shown in the case of the use 
of two boys of unequal weight and the see-saw board 
across the fence. 

The wall problem usually involves more than two 
objects and sometimes many. One must begin by plac- 
ing the largest, strongest or most attractive nearest the 
centre; then the next, the next, and the next, back and 
forth from one side to the other of the central line, until a 
feeling of rest or equal attraction on either side is ob- 
tained. This arrangement, when it has reached a 
balanced condition, is the occult balance so often seen 
and so little understood. 

In furnishing a room, however, one side wall is but a 
small part of the entire problem, and were one to take 
each side wall separately there would be the problem of 
putting the four walls together so that the entire room 
is a balance as well as each separate wall. 

The central axis of the room is the place in which to 
stand when judging the balanced arrangement. If I 
face north and my north wall is well balanced, I turn to 
the northwest corner, and must feel a balance between 
the north wall and west wall as a whole; turn to the 
northeast corner, the same feeling of rest should obtain 
as between north and east walls. If this is right, the 
west wall and the east wall will also balance. The 


same process, facing south, will show at once whether 
the room is well balanced or not. 

By well balanced, I do not mean the wall or the things 
that are a part of it or are attached to it, but those things 
in the room, whether they touch the wall or not, that 
seem to use that wall naturally as a background. 

Sometimes a small picture hung over an article of 
furniture or a very dark contrasting value in some ma- 
terial, although in small quantity, will restore the bal- 
ance where the opposite wall has a larger picture over 
a cabinet or piano, or where a tapestry gives a wall 
sufficient strength to demand a strong opposite attrac- 
tive force. This prevents a feeling of tipping in the 

Some of the very bad arrangement of pianos, espe- 
cially black ones, across room corners, and the adjust- 
ment of bureaus, dressers and cabinets in the same 
diagonal positions are attempts to restore a balanced ar- 
rangement in the room and to connect one wall with the 
other. This linking by an unnatural line of one wall 
to the other does not as a rule restore the balance but it 
does destroy the structural effect of the room, creating 
another motif entirely foreign to the original idea, and it 
often makes the grouping of other articles of furniture 
quite impossible. 




PURPOSELY up to this time no special stress has been 
laid upon those qualities in objects which furnish the 
power of attraction previously mentioned. There are 
several elements which in themselves attract the eye 
under ordinary conditions. There is probably no 
doubt that colour is the most attractive of all forces to 
the eye because colour is the only thing the eye sees- 
forms and lines being the result of colour transition and 
mental comparison. 

Colour may be used as an attractive force in three 
fields, that of hue, value and intensity, and should be 
balanced accordingly. If one colour presents with its 
background a very strong contrast in intensity, this 
appeal may be balanced with another object which is a 
stronger contrast in value. 

As has been shown in the chapters on colour, one 
estimates, consciously or unconsciously, the attrac- 
tive power of a colour tone in each of the three fields, 
hue, value and intensity, and the more one studies a 
balanced relation of these qualities under varying con- 
ditions, the finer becomes his sense of discrimination, 
and the sooner will the feeling for balance become 
a habit. Until it does become a habit the pleasure 
resulting from balanced relationship cannot be felt 


by the individual, for the final test of aesthetic appeal is 
in the power of significant colour combination or of 
form to stimulate the activity of the aesthetic sense. 

When objects are to appear as decorative features in 
colour upon a cabinet, bookcase, shelf or table, there is 
abundant chance for arranging two, three or five objects 
differing in colour, size and form. If there are five 
objects there is a single one, with two on either side, 
arranged in such a way that there is a perfect feeling of 
rest in the arrangement. No finer training is possible 
than the arranging of such groups. 

If the objects differ considerably in colour, perhaps in 
hue and intensity, the problem is still more interesting. 
If there is also great variation in value the problem is too 
involved to grasp easily. 

Two of the three qualities of colour make sufficient 
contrast between objects that are to be considered as 
parts of a unit, and even these two should not under 
general conditions be too violently contrasted. It is a 
good thing to cultivate the habit of seeing subtle re- 
lationships and allowing subtle relationships to do the 
work under ordinary circumstances. Never use violent 
contrasts in any of the colour qualities except as under- 
stood emphasis necessities, or as consciously felt stimuli 
to the colour sense. 

A judicious use of colour is essential, as a judicious 
use of anything else is essential, to its fullest usefulness. 
An orgy of colour, like an orgy of other natural qualities, 
unfits one to appreciate its force and exhausts that 
force in unnecessary activity. 

Contrasted shapes must be balanced. A round form 
appearing against an oblong wall makes a stronger bid 



for attention than an oblong form of exactly the same 
area and exactly the same colour as the circular one. 
Some power of attraction added to shape must be given 
the oblong form before it can make as strong an appeal 
as the circular one or become a balance for it. 

In sensing an occult balance this must be considered 
as well as relative sizes. All other things being equal, 
objects of the same size present the same attractive 
power. Sometimes, however, a small object, brilliant 
or intense in colour, may be balanced by a much larger 
one less intense in colour, when other attractive forces 
are the same in each. 

Texture, too, has a special attraction interest. When 
the wall is of a soft, flat, smooth texture, and two pieces 
of pottery are to appear on it, one having almost exactly 
the same feeling in texture as the wall and the other con- 
trasted by being much coarser, heavier, rougher and 
more porous in appearance, even if size, shape and col- 
our are identical, the contrasted texture gives one a 
stronger force appeal than the other. This quality of 
textural difference is a matter for consideration later, 
but one that seriously enters into the perfect feeling for 
balanced arrangement. 

The principle known as movement is, in composition 
or design, the opposite of balance and destroys the idea 
which balance creates. 

When the human figure stands erect ears, shoulders, 
hips and heels in the same vertical line it is in harmony 
with the law of gravitation and is at rest. No effort is 
required to stand erect when one is in this position. 
The law of gravitation does the work. If the body is 
laid flat upon the floor the same law, acting on the floor, 


the body and the rest of the universe, makes action or 
effort on the part of man unnecessary. Stand and in- 
cline the body forward by throwing the left leg out as 
if to run, and the body assumes a position in which 
there is the appearance of its being about to perform 
some act requiring motion. If it were to tip back of 
the vertical line the same feeling would be created, and 
an effort be required in order to remain in this position. 
The figure thus posed is said to be in action. 

When an inclined or oblique line appears in composi- 
tion with vertical and horizontal ones, the same feeling 
of action or motion is expressed. This is because it is 
out of line with gravitation and out of line with the 
structural ideas with which it is in composition. 

Hang upon the wall at the left side a definitely verti- 
cal striped wall paper or textile, hang at the other end 
of the room a textile in which there is a definitely curved 
line extending from top to bottom, either in the form of 
the Italian or Louis XIV decorative motif, or of a vine 
arrangement such as may be found in the textiles of the 
Jacobean period or some modern wall papers. Look at 
the first illustration about halfway from the floor to the 
ceiling. The eye naturally tends at once to follow the 
vertical stripe to the ceiling; the tendency is next to 
follow it down to the floor. The eye naturally moves 
up and down in a straight line because it is one that 
extends unbroken in a certain direction. Partly be- 
cause of the structural idea and partly by reason of 
innate human curiosity, the eye will travel to the end 
of this line. 

If you look at the second illustration, you will find 
it impossible for the eye to make a straight line from 



the centre of the room to the top, or the bottom of the 
room to the top. The eye tends to follow the direction 
of the strongest line, the curved one which I have de- 

This tendency by which the eye is led from one point 
to another by a continuous line, or one nearly so, is 
called movement, and this movement from one place 
to another, in this or that direction, consciously or 
unconsciously, detracts from the sense of rest or repose. 
If the function of the room is to secure repose, neither 
of these movements will be introduced in strong and 
vigorous effects without destroying the idea for which 
the room exists. 

If dignity and formality are the chief characteristics 
of the room, the wandering curve will tend to make it 
less so than if the movement were a strictly vertical 
and horizontal one. 

The lines of triangular picture wires, erratic lines 
created by draperies, oblique placing of rugs with 
reference to floor edges and other arrangements which 
have been treated under structural unity, create, each 
in itself, a movement contrary to the general one estab- 
lished by the room structure. Each movement in a 
direction different from that of all the others creates 
a maze or forest of direction movements. This results 
in confusing the selection, and a solution, conscious 
or unconscious, of the composition idea becomes 
impossible. Such a room is not one in which to 

It is not lines alone that create movement; spots of 
colour or arrangements of forms, close enough together 
to be associated as parts of a whole, lead the eye from 

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one point to another through a sequence in the same 

In some designs which are to be used for decorative 
purposes movement is most desirable, for, in the fact 
that the eye does naturally go from one part of the 
design to the other, there is an incentive to interest 
throughout the entire scheme. 

When the opposite idea, however, is the aim, care 
must be taken that no such movement be created. 
For example, many people fancy that, given three or 
four small pictures, they must be hung together or 
adjacent to each other as a group upon the wall; that 
if each picture is, for example, nine inches high, the 
first one at the left should be placed low, the next one 
four inches away from it and two inches higher, the 
next four inches from that and two inches higher, and 
the last one in the same way, at a distance of four 
inches, and two inches higher. They believe that an 
artistic result must be obtained because this arrange- 
ment surely is not stiff. No, it is not stiff; neither is 
it desirable from any standpoint. 

Structurally these pictures should be straight across 
the top. The reason for this will be given later. 
If they are of the same size there is no excuse for their 
not being straight at the top or bottom. If any motion 
is to be created across the room from right to left, it 
should be straight across rather than up and down 
stairs, which would be tiresome if taken far. The same 
objectionable movement often results from arranging 
furniture after this manner. 

Another place where it is undesirable to create end- 
less journeys is upon the floor. I have remarked be- 



fore that the quieter the floor appearance is the more 
it accords with the idea of a place on which the feet 
may rest and furniture may be placed. 

One of the most disturbing things to be found in a 
room is a rug the pattern of which, by its erratic lines 
or spotted effects, leads the eye horizontally, vertically 
and diagonally all at the same time. This type of 
design is much worse when it appears in spotted wall 
covers. For instance, in the case of bouquets of flowers 
placed several feet apart, one above the other, showing 
as clearly defined spots that form a sequence which 
may be followed in any direction, each spot leading to 
an adjacent one in the same line. 

No one ever suspected until his attention was called 
to it, probably through experience, the amount of 
energy wasted by the American nation in useless count- 
ing, consciously and unconsciously, of spotted wall 
papers, spotted floors and badly arranged decorative 
motifs on the wall. 

The fact to grasp is that these arrangements exist 
to produce certain results, and movement prevents 
balanced arrangement and the resultant quiet, restful 
effect of finished motion. If the mistake is made of 
allowing this movement idea to creep in in ever so 
small a way, it must, inasmuch as it has entered into 
a scheme, bring with it the qualities for which it stands. 
Understand this, and introduce the opposite of those 
qualities, if they are desirable, in the particular room 
under consideration. 

It may be interesting to those who find pleasure in 
the study of pictures to know that this is one of the 
most useful of all principles of composition to him who 


would use the accessory objects in his pictures to em- 
phasize the centre of interest or the key idea for which 
the picture stands. 

Take, for example, many of the religious pictures 
of early Italian art. Some of them contain from three 
to one hundred figures, including perhaps the mother, 
the child, and the rest of the Holy Family, saints, 
angels and other persons. The function of each of 
these figures as a matter of composition is to emphasize 
some precept or ideal for which the picture stands as 
a whole. We will suppose, for the sake of argument, 
that the Christ idea is to be brought out or the child 
Christ idea is to be emphasized. The child is small> 
not brilliantly coloured, and lies quietly in the mother's 
arms. The bend of the head, the gaze of the eyes, 
compel the observer of the picture to find interest in 
the very thing in which the mother is most interested. 
Other members of the family, saints and attendants, 
are generally interested and looking directly at or 
bending their body toward either mother or child. 
If they are not, one is looking at another and either 
pointing to the object of most importance or, by look- 
ing at another who is absorbed in contemplation of this 
object, compels you to follow his gaze. 

This setting of composition, arranging of forms, 
comparison of lines and use of gaze attraction is em- 
phasized always in the best stage performances in 
which more than one or two persons are concerned in 
the exposition of an idea. 

Every principle of composition and arrangement 
exists to make clear some given quality or idea. These 
principles also assist in producing a corresponding 



mental state in any person who is active in sensing 
such qualities. Conformity to these principles will re- 
sult in producing qualities related to the idea for 
which an expression is sought. Disregard of them may 
have a result quite opposed to those ideas which may be 
struggling for expression. 

Movement, then, is the complement of balance. 
Balance exists to produce rest and all those qualities 
which are intimately related to it. Movement exists 
to destroy balance, to create unrest, to lead the in- 
dividual in certain directions from one thing to another 
to keep him on the alert, and it ends by bringing him 
to some particular point. 

Let us not confuse these two vital principles or fail 
to see their import in the arrangement of colours, 
forms, lines and textures in any problem where the dec- 
orative idea is the one to be considered. 



MENTION has been made of the effects produced 
in decorative units where the scale or relative sizes of 
its elements are well or badly chosen. A more de- 
tailed treatment of this subject is not likely to make us 
too careful in our selections in this field of expression. 

The term scale is broader in its meaning than the 
mere word implies. It means not only that every ele- 
ment of each separate article must be in the right 
proportion to every other element of that article, but 
that every object used in the room unit must have the 
same perfect scale relation to every other object used 
and to the room itself. 

Furthermore, this scale feeling extends not only to 
the appearance or to the forms, sizes and colours in 
their aesthetic effects, but also to these as each expresses 
its particular function idea. 

Examine the treatment as it is applied to a chair, 
for instance. First, this given chair must have general 
proportions which are both pleasing and possible in its 
functional capacity. The proportion of height to 
width, and of each of these to the depth of the chair as 
a whole, must be considered. The dimensions of the 
back, of the seat, the height of the seat from the floor, 


the design of the arms, if there be any arms, must 
be so related that the chair will fulfill its functional 
idea of comfort. Then all of its parts by their perfect 
scale relation, each to each, will awaken through their 
significant forms a sense of aesthetic pleasure. 

The proportion, too, of the legs to the cross bars of 
the chair; of the members of the back to those parts 
and to each other; the mouldings (if there are any) to 
all these and to each other should be a subject for care- 
ful individual study no matter how small the detail 
may be. American furniture shows a woful lack of 
knowledge of such details, a lack of sincerity in express- 
ing an idea and a neglect of aesthetic proportion. 

If the chair is perfectly suited by its proportion 
and its forms to the idea for which it stands, and if 
these form relations are so pleasing by comparison that 
an aesthetic sensation is produced, the chair has ful- 
filled the law, so far as its scale relation is concerned, 
as a separate unit. But this is not the final tribunal 
before which this particular chair comes in composition 
with other chairs and other articles of furniture mak- 
ing up the room unit. 

If the chair under discussion is to be covered with 
upholstery material and this material has decorative 
units of ornament upon its surface, these also must show 
a scale feeling. These have the same artistic relation- 
ship as that which exists between other members 
of the same general whole. Very often a chair with 
slim, delicate, refined legs will be found in historic 
periods with backs far too heavy, or vice versa, and 
while the chair is perhaps an expression of some stage 
of development during the period, it is an ugly aggre- 


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gate of scale relationships and an inartistic model for 
present-day use. Sometimes when these parts are 
well related in scale the period demanded a textile the 
design of which was far too heavy, or perhaps too weak, 
for the structural scale elements of the chair. 

There is a question, then, of choosing between bad 
forms, bad sizes, and poorly related scales as the expres- 
sion of some period when these forms were not clearly 
sensed, or of so relating these parts in scale that they 
shall represent not only their functional idea but also 
an esthetic scale relationship. There can be no ques- 
tion as to which to choose. The slavish acceptance or 
copy of a period article of furniture or decoration, bad 
in any part, but copied because of its period sig- 
nificance, bespeaks bad taste. It shows also a bad 
tendency on the part of the person who prefers to copy 
and hold intact badly expressed ideas, rather than to 
try to grasp the idea, modifying and improving it as 
much as he is able to under particular circumstances. 

It should be made quite clear at this point that there 
are no periods in which one cannot find, and find often, 
the grossest inconsistencies in some phase of national 
expression. At no period and at no time have people 
succeeded in keeping a perfect balance of ideas; there- 
fore, in no period have they made a perfect balance in 
expressing those ideas. 

Sometimes, as in the High Greek period, proportion 
has been fundamental in all things and appears in its 
most highly developed form. At other times rhythm 
and grace of line have been the dominant thought, and 
dancing, waving-line combinations have been carried to 
their greatest degree of perfection. This occurred in 



the period of Louis XIV, when proportion and scale rela- 
tions between rooms and their furnishings were often 
totally ignored in the matter of assembling objects as a 
room unit. 

A single chair sometimes carried out in every particu- 
lar the scale idea, but it was placed in a room in which 
the scale relation was absolutely unsensed and at times 
it was associated with articles of furniture having the 
same defect. Then, too, it frequently occurred that 
naturalistic decorative motifs were woven in the tapestry 
covering the seats of a Louis XV chair, decorations large 
enough in motif and strong enough in colour to have 
dominated a huge formal chair of the period of the High 
Renaissance in Italy. 

The reason for studying scale from period standpoints 
is to establish the fact that certain scale relations are 
consistent and harmonious, and therefore pleasing, and 
that a violation of these scale relations is bound to de- 
stroy the consistency, the harmony and the pleasure re- 
sulting from scale as an artistic consideration. 

One is quite likely to come across badly related things 
in the most ordinary furnishings of the most ordinary 
houses as well as in the most elaborate ones where 
periods and types are more thoughtlessly mixed. 

A table generally has a larger leg than a chair, but 
the ratio of size between the leg and the chair should 
have a bearing on the general size of the table as it 
relates to the general size of the chair; or, rather, the 
general contour, size and thickness of material in any 
article of furniture establishes a relationship between its 
dimensions as a whole and the dimensions of its parts, 
such as its legs, its top, its slats or its panels. 



Having established this relationship, a chair which 
is one-fourth as big as a cabinet or a table should have a 
leg not as big as the table but in a scale somewhat corres- 
ponding to its size, as its size relates to the table dimen- 

A notable example of lack of feeling in scale is the 
manner in which the tops of tables jut beyond their 
structural leg formation. Certain periods in the Italian 
Renaissance have established a projection long enough 
to seem to be adequate for the scale and height of the 
table itself. This same strict adherence to scale in its 
jut may be seen in the roofs of Italian palaces of the same 
period, notably in those of the Strozzi, Antinori and 
Riccardi in Florence. These have cornices projecting 
in a scale charmingly related to the scale of the f agade, 
the height of the building, the material of which it is 
made and to the general proportions of the exterior of 
the building. 

By comparing Italian tables with those of the Eliza- 
bethan or Early Renaissance in England, where the pro- 
jection is from two to three inches, instead of eight or 
nine inches, one easily perceives the cut or dwarfed feel- 
ing of the top. One gets an impression of lack of 
material as well as lack of proportion in the top as it re- 
lates to the rest of the table. 

It is a curious and interesting study to note this one 
instance of scale relationship through the remainder of 
the English periods. Starting with the Italian as a 
basis and taking the Elizabethan as a matter of com- 
parison, let us look at the ways in which the Jacobean 
period worked out this idea. As the material lessened 
in amount, in thickness and in scale, the top extended a 



bit, and a better relation in scale resulted than in the 
Elizabethan period, where the proportion, so far as 
the top is concerned, seemed to be entirely lost. In the 
Queen Anne and Georgian styles one can readily see the 
effect as each interpreter saw it of the scale relation of 
the object and the scale feeling of its material influencing 
the matter of the distance in the extension of the top. 

This relation is quite as apparent in cabinets, dressers, 
chests of drawers and writing tables, which articles of 
furniture were developed with the need for them as 
civilization advanced. 

With this period illustration in mind, one should ex- 
amine his own furniture and the furniture of others to 
see whether in each case he considers every part and 
detail to be in perfect scale relation to every other part. 
If some one feature is unduly prominent or so undersized 
that it loses its functional power or fails to play its part 
in the construction of a significant form, or to conform 
to the rule of unity in scale, he will then discover it. 

Having looked over each article, one should see these 
different articles as they relate to each other; and more 
important still, should consider whether the single ar- 
ticles of furniture are too large or too small for the room 
in which they are placed. 

It often happens thai assembling many horizontal 
pieces of furniture in a room which is as tall as it is 
wide or long creates a very queer feeling. The same 
feeling would be created in the room if all the articles 
it contained were vertical in their effect. 

To understand how to make a room look larger or 
smaller than it is, is to help know how to choose furniture 
in correct scale relationships first, to the room itself, 


and then to every other article with which it must be 
associated. Constant care is necessary to determine 
anything like a reasonable standard of scale relationship 
unless one is trained through years of study by either 
drawing, measuring or calculating in some way the 
exact relation of details as they have to do with each 
other in the construction of any unit. 

In analyzing the concept or mental picture one has 
of any object which he sees or sound which he hears, he 
is quite likely to forget that consciousness is the result 
of impressions received in five ways. These five ways, 
represented by the five senses sight, hearing, touch, 
smell, and taste are the avenues through which our 
ideas or impressions of external things come. 

Some persons see more correctly than they hear; 
others hear more correctly than they see; many gain a 
large part of their ideas of objects from the tactile sense, 
or the sense of touch. 

We are quite likely to believe that all ideas come from 
the sense of sight, if we see more correctly than we hear, 
or gain ideas more easily that way than by any other. 
To all persons many ideas come originally through the 
sense of touch. This fact has given to all visual objects 
a quality which we call texture. That is, because we 
have touched a round object some time and acquired 
the idea of rotundity, we see an object as round, men- 
tally, when one is presented to the sense of sight. The 
quality of roughness, smoothness, flexibility, rigidity, 
and similar qualities, were first acquired through the 
sense of touch. 

A burlap cloth looks rougher than an India silk; 
chiffon looks more flexible than taffeta; oak appears 



coarser, firmer and more rugged than mahogany or 
boxwood; olive wood has a silk-faced look; Italian wal- 
nut approaches this but still shows traces of grain, 
making it somewhat coarser because of this. 

A tightly woven linen looks and feels firm, more de- 
cided, harder, less yielding and less graceful in its possi- 
bilities than charmeuse silk, the qualities of which are 
exactly opposite to those described. 

Wood, textiles, metals, potteries and all made objects 
have a quality known as texture which is fundamental 
in the idea of harmony between objects which are to be 
used together. It must not be understood that all 
things that are to be used together must have precisely 
the same texture feeling. If they did, the result would 
be a monotonous textile composition. Consistent va- 
riety, however, must obtain. 

If, on the other hand, the wood in a room has the 
feeling of oak, the hangings the feeling of chiffon or 
charmeuse, the rug the texture of hemp or heavy wool, 
while the ornaments represent the texture of bisque or 
Sevres ware, there can be little hope of textural har- 
mony in the composition. To be sure, putting these 
in the right colour may lessen the textural significance, 
since scaling them properly and pleasingly makes the 
textural difference less noticeable. To arrange them in 
perfect composition helps to make good effects out of 
bad ones. A complete criticism or analysis of a situa- 
tion can never be made until the question of texture has 
been considered either intellectually or through the 
sense of feeling. 

Some people, who are sensitive enough, know imme- 
diately when textures are too unrelated to be harmoni- 


ous. More, however, are oblivious to this distinction 
and cannot remedy even the simplest inconsistency 
because they are unable to see what is wrong. There 
is, of course, a third class those who never know any- 
thing is wrong, and this discussion may serve to awaken 
in such at least a spirit of investigation. 

To show how important the cultivation of this sensi- 
tiveness is, let me remind you that there are certain 
countries in which the development of the tactile sense 
is considered so important that special lessons are given 
in the following way : all children, until they reach the 
ages of twelve or fourteen years, are put in a class, 
blindfolded, and led to tables on which are placed, in 
mixed piles, pieces of straw braid varying in degrees 
of textile coarseness, undressed pieces of wood, differ- 
ent qualities of lace, silk and other textiles, feathers, 
soft and stiff, and materials of various kinds which one 
is likely to encounter in furnishing a house or clothing 
the body. 

Children are asked to select a wood and a silk that feel 
right together, then to add to these something in metal 
or pottery, a piece of lace, a feather, a bit of straw, 
or other material, until they have found, by feeling, 
such things as they consider texturally harmonious. 
With the bandage removed, they then compare what 
they have chosen by feeling with what they would 
choose by sight, and are so led to sense relationships 
in these combinations. If this training is continued 
for some time, it is clear that the habit must be formed 
of recognizing relationships, as well as of investigating 
those relationships before accepting anything as good. 
After a time, of course, this becomes an unconscious 



process. No process of analysis should be a conscious 
one when it has reached the stage of development 
where it can be made a part of the unconscious or sub- 
conscious self. Only when these things are a part of 
the subconscious self are they really effective in de- 
veloping the art idea. 

Training the mind to sense one quality at a time, 
and that thoroughly, is a step in the development of 
the final idea. When, however, the perception of this 
quality has become a habit it is time to sense with like 
accuracy the next quality, then the next and the next, 
and so on, until one unconsciously feels a good and 
correct thing and, equally, is able to decide at once 
when a thing is not right or correct, or that this, that 
or the other quality is wrong in feeling. The value of 
this viewpoint to the interior decorator, or to the per- 
son who would appreciate art in any applied form, is 
absolutely immeasurable. Only the genius can appre- 
ciate, create and criticise in any field, but in any one 
may be developed to a considerable degree the ability 
to appreciate, to create and to criticise, if he accepts 
one thing at a time and trains himself to perceive cor- 

A right application of this textural sense will show 
that one cannot put olive wood and antique oak in 
the same unit without at least a considerable manip- 
ulation of space between them. Burlap and chiffon 
will not enter harmoniously into a texture scheme, even 
if they are both made of silk and have the same colour. 
It will be much harder to harmonize them if one hap- 
pens to be done in cheap cotton and the other in ex- 
pensive silk while their colours differ. Pieces of orna- 


ment like bisque and wrought iron are by their textures 
somewhat inharmonious, but not more so than are 
other articles of furniture or upholstery which we daily 
attempt to put together. 

This description of texture is not meant to be com- 
plete. It is intended simply to arouse in the mind of 
the reader a realization of the importance of recognizing 
this quality and its power in the artistic concept. It 
may also bring about a consciousness of harmony in 
texture or its lack. 

Before leaving the general fundamentals of this sub- 
ject for the historic and specific ones, it is essential 
to have a common perception of what is meant by 
motifs in decoration. It is sometimes easier to see the 
significance of this if one thinks first of the motif as it 
appears in musical composition. A short passage or 
two perhaps conveys, or is meant to, the fundamental 
theme or idea around which the composition is built. 
To the person who understands music this short passage 
is the key or cue and is the source of the enlargements, 
the broadenings, the accessories and the tracings of all 
that comes after it. 

One sees the same thing in a literary composition. 
There must be a theme upon which to write, a motif 
around which all parts of the composition are woven. 
In decoration there must also be a theme or motif, a 
something which expresses the fundamental idea but 
which is changed, enlarged, broadened, coloured, cut, 
added to, and finally, with all its parts, woven into a 
decorative whole. 

The decorative motif as it refers to ornament may 
be said to originate in one of two sources: the first 



source, nature, is one from which many periods have 
taken their inspiration and which some periods have 
misused, since by their treatment in materials nature 
lost its own individuality and was misrepresented in the 
attempt to make decoration nature. 

On the other hand, nature did not become decoration. 
As Goethe has said, ''Art is art because it is not na- 
ture." Therefore, to become art or decoration, na- 
ture must lose its fundamental characteristics. This is 
one of the most difficult things to grasp in the whole 
realm of decorative art. So thoroughly are people 
and it is right that they should be imbued with a love 
for nature as nature, that it is impossible for them to 
leave nature to nature's realm and to realize that nature 
cannot, as nature, be art, since nature is God's realm and 
art is man's. 

It is man's function to select from nature bits of the 
great whole and to arrange them for his needs in an ar- 
tistic way. This he may do in his garden, his grounds, 
or in a vase on his library table, but it is not his func- 
tion in foreign materials to attempt to make his garden 
or his grounds or his vase of flowers look as they would 
look or did look when they were created in their own 
natural environment as a part of the scheme of nature 
rather than of man's adaptation of it. So long, there- 
fore, as a rose is a rose, whether it is in the garden or on 
the table, it looks practically the same; but its appear- 
ance is very different as a rose, or as one of two or three 
roses, in a vase on the table, from what it was as one 
of five hundred or a thousand on a bush, where the en- 
vironment of the bush had also its effect. 

This is not so hard to see, however, as the next 

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step in which the rose is to be translated into a carpet, 
a damask or a painted dish. While it is possible for 
the rose to become decorative in the vase, it is impos- 
sible for it to be so if man attempts to create a rose, 
exactly as God created it, and do so with wool, silk 
or china. 

To be sure, the wax flowers of fifty years ago were 
nearer like nature than the hair ones of seventy-five 
years ago or the shell ones of one hundred years ago, 
but, for my part, of the three I believe the shell ones 
to be the most decorative, for they, at least, had the 
distinction of not looking like that which they were not. 
As sincerity is the first principle of art, I see in them 
some possibility of decorative effect. 

Nature, then, is the first source from which deco- 
rative ornament has been drawn, and such ornament is 
called naturalistic ornament. Volumes could be written 
on what has happened in every field of art expression 
when nations have drawn their ideals from naturalism. 
Then idealism has given place to realism, symbolism 
to naturalism, while spirituality and sestheticism have 
given place to materialism and sensualized nature. 

This is not the place to discuss the philosophy of 
the naturalistic ornament, but it readily will be seen 
what happens when a nation has reached a point where 
its natural life interests find their best expression in 
purely naturalistic ornamental forms. Perhaps one 
might cite the Roman Empire, the high period of the 
French Renaissance, the naturalistic Victorian period 
in England, and the black walnut and painted china 
periods in the United States. 

The second source for ornament is found in the ab- 



stract idea. The Greeks, through centuries of evolu- 
tion, produced ornament of pure form. Its beauty is 
in its proportion, in the exquisite relationships of ab- 
stract sizes, shapes and lines. It never was nature 
and never purported to be. Its charm, which is classic, 
lies in its impersonality or abstraction and in its ex- 
quisite abstract relationships. 

The Mohammedans evolved for religious reasons an 
Arabesque system of ornament in which no natural 
motif is found. Its surface charm, which is undeniable, 
is due to the intricate relationships of abstract motifs 
in which naturalism has played no part and nature 
has not been defamed. Other periods, following these 
two early ones, have also developed abstract ornament 
which never was and never purported to be natural in 
its origin. 

These two sources, symbolically and decoratively, 
are the well springs out of which human ingenuity 
has created ornament shapes through all ages. Man's 
love for nature and nature's forms of expression, to- 
gether with his religious ideals which connect natural 
objects with the divine idea, has introduced nearly 
always into the art of nations animal and plant forms 
as a part of their decorative plan. 

The ancient Egyptians used the human figure, birds, 
animals, and trees, each representing an externalized 
divinity as a part of their hieroglyphic scheme. They 
treated these objects in flat single tones drawn without 
perspective and modified in form, size and shape in 
such a way that they fitted rather pleasingly together 
and assumed a somewhat decorative appearance. 

The Assyrians were wont to use chariots, human 

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beings and implements of war to illustrate their caste 
systems and various social forms in has relief. In this 
manifestation of their art they used many of nature's 

The danger came when realism demanded a perfect 
exposition in pictorial effect of every detail as it was, 
rather than as it should be to suit the conditions under 
which it was to be used. At times certain nations have 
appreciated the relation of the decorative motif to the 
material in which it was to be rendered. In Gothic 
tapestries ornament was arranged decoratively. The 
decadent Italian Renaissance conceived tapestries only 
as a picture of social life, and it lost almost entirely its 
decorative effect. 

The translation of the rose or the lily onto the ma- 
terial of a carpet, wall paper, or a plate is impossible 
unless the rose be modified into the feeling or meaning 
of the material in which it is to appear. I believe it 
was Ruskin who said that "Conventionalization is the 
translation of nature into man's material." A con- 
ventionalized motif is that decorative motif which has 
been so modified in shape, size, colour and proportion 
that it is exactly suited to the material in which it is 

The significant fact to grasp in this matter is the 
difference between a motif which attempts to picture 
details which are beyond its power to portray, and which 
are non-essential, and one that seeks to relate itself 
perfectly to the material in which it is expressed while 
it suggests rather than depicts those details which every 
intelligent person knows exist. 

Conventionalized motifs, then, are motifs which can 



exist in any material but not in nature, and a desire for 
a perfectly naturalistic picture in these things seems un- 
believable in a civilized people. 

Perhaps there is no family of any culture in this 
country that does not believe some one Madonna to 
be a beautiful picture. Perhaps the Mona Lisa has as 
large a number of admirers as any portrait in existence. 
It is well to ask ourselves how many pictures of the 
chosen Madonna or the Mona Lisa we should be willing 
to have in our living-room or our bedroom at the same 
time. I am sure no one would choose more than one. 
How, then, can people consistently desire several hun- 
dred worse pictures of roses, or other flowers badly drawn, 
badly arranged, and badly carried out in material? It 
needs but a little thought to lead one to see that only 
in masterpieces of historic art has there been an ap- 
proach to the use of nature in a realistic way so that the 
result is an artistic and decorative effect. 

Perhaps this is the best place in this discussion to call 
attention to the necessity for care in the selection of 
different motifs that are to go into the same room. 
It is easy to see that varying degrees of naturalistic 
treatment and conventional arrangement in rugs, chairs, 
hangings, wall coverings, etc., would inevitably intro- 
duce into a room impossible combinations of decorative 

The ornament of the rug, which is usually abstract, 
particularly in the Oriental types, is hard to harmonize 
with conventional Art Nouveau upholstery and hang- 
ings and with naturalistic wall paper. The abstract 
and the conventional may sometimes appear together 
if neither is too prominent. The very conventional and 

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the nearly naturalistic are very ugly together. The 
purely naturalistic should never appear, and the ab- 
stract is rather formal. 

The scale in these motifs, so far as the room unit is 
concerned, is of fundamental importance. Often a 
room is spoiled in effect by contrasting some very tiny, 
insignificant and weak motif with a large, strong and 
prominent one. Even if the furniture and other objects 
are well scaled, the motifs may destroy the scale unit of 
the room as well as its arrangement. 

The more one studies ornament the more he realizes 
that nations, peoples and eras have expressed new 
types of civilization by the source, the treatment and 
the application of its motifs for decorative purposes. 
We are living in an age when all these vast resources are 
at our command. The trouble with us is that we ap- 
proach them with the idea that each must be good under 
any circumstances, and since it is an ornament it must 
be a decoration. Then if we approach the resources of 
several eras at the same time, each expressing an in- 
dividual idea, and combine their products without care 
in a room, an inharmonious aggregate of motifs must be 
the result. 

In this field, then, of decorative ornament there can 
be no harmony unless there is understanding. Better 
by far a perfectly plain textile, rug or wall yes, and 
even china than those in which the inharmonious use 
of motifs as to source, kind and treatment destroys the 
otherwise unified expression. 

One caution more is essential. If motifs appear in 
the wall cover they should not appear in the hangings 
or the floor in any considerable prominence. If they 




in the hangings 
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house furnishing. 





LIFE is action; its result is evolution, and out of this 
ceaseless activity comes man's universal impulse to 
create. Mental life is constantly changing. Environ- 
ment also is subject to constant variation; hence man's 
needs are continually presented in different forms. 
Because of these conditions, both physical and mental, 
man's creative impulse finds its natural outlet in the 
satisfaction of these needs. He is impelled by his in- 
stinctive appetites to provide for himself food, drink, 
shelter and air. By his mental desires he is urged to 
create such things as will satisfy his aesthetic sense or his 
appetite for beauty, which is as universal an instinct in 
man as are the physical appetites. 

As states of civilization have changed and different 
conditions have evolved different needs man has 
adapted his creative work to the approximate satisfac- 
tion of these needs, so that in all times the works of man 
have spoken eloquently of his ideals, his interests, his 
necessities and his desires. 

This makes art objects, so-called, of vital human in- 
terest to him who sees them as man's psychological 
expression. The objects of art that remain express two 
distinct elements in man's life fitness for use and 



beauty. Their adaptability to our needs may or may 
not be expressed in their fitness for their own time, but 
the degree of beauty they reveal is perceptible now and 
will be forever, for the quality of beauty is eternal. 

There are two ways of looking at a period in art: 
first, from the viewpoint of its fitness, or the fitness of 
its various objects to fulfill the requirements of modern 
comfort and convenience. While an art object may 
have adequately expressed this fitness to the generation 
in which it was created, it is often quite impossible to 
satisfy our conception of fitness with the same object. 
Its adaptation without loss of character is the problem 
of modern usage. 

Looking at it from the second viewpoint, an art period 
must be considered with regard to its value or its power 
as a decorative expression in the furnishing of a modern 

A due regard to these distinctions will ensure such a 
choice and arrangement of furnishings of any period as 
will not only conform to modern conditions, but will 
form with these conditions a harmonious unit. This 
subject will be further considered in Part III. 

History is a record of life. It is a record not only in 
words but in stone, metal, wood and other materials, 
and takes the form of architecture, sculpture, ornament, 
furniture, clothes and the like. We learn much of how 
the Romans lived from the fragments of architecture 
which are left. More eloquent than words are Greek 
sculpture, the Gothic Cathedral and the French palaces. 
In no way can the ideals and practices of a people be so 
definitely embodied as in those objects which they in 
their time create to represent their various needs and 


desires. To regard history, then, as a mere matter of 
word record is to miss entirely the intimate relation that 
exists between art objects and the people who create 
them. This viewpoint of periods as a historical ex- 
pression is important and will be considered throughout 
this work. 

A period in art may be described as a period of time 
in which one dominant influence controlled the various 
expressions of some nation's life interest. Perhaps no 
one person more completely dominated the art of any 
period than did Louis XIV in France. The political 
situation which he created, the religious ideas which he 
promulgated, and the social regime which grew out of 
his ideas and practices found their concrete expression 
in the gorgeous, pageant-like forms characterizing the 
period of Louis XIV. This expression was by no means 
a crystallized fact in the early days of the reign of this 
sovereign, neither did it remain intact until the day of 
his death. It was modified by outside influences, which 
perhaps for the time being were stronger even than his 
or those of his associates who dominated the royal 
thought. There is always the transition from the last 
period to the one under consideration, and the transition 
from the considered one to the one which follows. Each 
of these will be marked by conflicting ideas. 

In the study of periods it is most desirable that one 
should have the clearest possible conception of the idea 
for which the period stands when it is at its highest 
degree of perfection. Study all kinds of objects made 
during those periods for the discovery of common ele- 
ments. Analyze those elements for ideas or qualities 
which they represent and then interpret all other parts 



of the period and all associated periods by these quality 
ideas, rather than by set dates, set terms, or crystallized 

In discussing a period one must always consider all 
that has gone before, that is, all influences that are 
hereditary and that have affected the local period by 
contact. Then there are national characteristics in- 
fluencing the period creation, individual preferences and 
desires which are associated with the dominating per- 
son or persons of that period, and the general needs of 
the civilization which, after all, furnish the keynote to 
the art of every well-defined period. 

It is better in this brief discussion to take the broadest 
possible conception of period art and to try to establish 
in a limited way a relationship between man, his ideas 
or aims, and the materials with which Ije expresses these. 
This will establish at least a fundamental working basis 
for period study and further investigation. 

Eliminating Asiatic influences, there have been, 
broadly speaking, three great manifestations or types 
of expression out of which have been formulated lesser 
ones at various times under local conditions. Each of 
these three dominating influences has in turn been pre- 
ponderant in the various periods. These three influ- 
ences may be named, for the sake of clearness, the 
Classic or Hellenic, the Gothic or Christian, and the 
Humanistic or Materialistic Natural. 

In the working out of these three ideas man has been 
moved or impelled to create by three distinct impulses. 
The highest and most important of these may be called 
the religious or spiritual impulse. Because of his desire 
to embody his highest ideals of religious duty we have 












the monuments of Egypt, the beautiful temples of the 
Greeks, and the cathedrals of the Gothic period. 

When the second, or political impulse prevails, 
man's greatest energy is bent toward the creation of 
imposing public structures with accessories which will 
embody his ideas of political power and will tend 
duly to impress others with their national strength 
and importance. The Roman period is perhaps a 
good example of such domination. 

The third impulse to create is found in man's social 
ideal. Whenever the social idea has been dominant 
as it was in the days of the High French Renaissance 
then man's energies have been directed toward the 
creation and expression of all those things which social 
intercourse and refined social practice seem to make 

In this era we live in the grasp of a commercially 
social impulse, with the leading idea, commercial ad- 
vancement, dominating even the social quality. This, 
of course, is the lowest and most inartistic viewpoint 
possible, since the creation of beautiful things demands 
a love for those things which is stronger than any mere 
material gain which can result from their creation. 
The art standard of the modern period is in consequence 
less sensitive, less clearly defined and less exalted than 
perhaps any that has previously existed. 

In treating of the three great influences Hellenic, 
Gothic and Humanistic it is essential to get the 
clearest possible idea of what each of these periods 
sought to embody. The ancient Greek lived for cen- 
turies with one idea in mind namely, the expression 
of divinity in perfect material form. Education and 



practice were both planned to develop the highest 
standards and the highest ideals of physical expression 
in the human body and in all material forms that men 
produced. Greek statuary did not happen to be what 
it is. Each piece is the concrete embodiment of an idea, 
the development of which took centuries of inheritance 
and a nation-wide devotion to the idea that beauty is God. 

Certain qualities must be held supreme in conscious- 
ness in order to bring out those qualities in the materials 
which man touches. This short treatise cannot point 
out the analogies which exist between the objects of 
visual art and the literature or music of the time, but 
it can indicate some of the qualities of mind necessary 
to the realization of this perfect, intellectual, unemo- 
tional and restrained period expression. With beauty 
and truth as an ideal expressed in material, the Greek 
would naturally follow in ideal at least the same plan 
in the development of the body, in architecture, in or- 
nament, in the utensils commonly used and, in short, 
in all things which he handled. 

In order to accomplish this perfect representation of 
material beauty, temperance or restraint in all things 
is a fundamental virtue. "Never anything in excess" 
is the law which makes the successful handling of ma- 
terial objects possible. No other people ever came 
so near to a realization of this ideal as did the Greek. 
Greek expression shows restraint, unemotional expres- 
sion and perfect form. These qualities are readily 
seen in sculpture but should be just as apparent in the 
long lines, the simple arrangements, the perfect adapta- 
tions and the consistent combinations in architecture, 
ornament and the lesser arts. 


It has been said that three descriptive words are 
enough to summarize the Hellenic Ideal and that, 
having grasped these three words in their full meaning, 
the quality of everything classic may be tested by them. 

The first word is "simplicity." Whatever savours of 
unnecessary display is entirely foreign to the Greek 
idea. The simplest expression when adequate is always 

The second word is "sincerity." How terribly have 
the nations of the earth departed from this idea, even 
in their adaptations of classic art. The ancient column 
with its beautiful proportions and wonderful materials 
was created as an honest support to a weight above. 
The juttings, the friezes and the architraves are essen- 
tial elements in the decorative idea of the buildings 
but are first a part of the constructive necessities of 
the building. To superimpose these parts in stucco^ 
plaster or tin, upon a steel structure or a brick wall, is 
not only a defamation of the noble Greek idea but is a 
farce in the field of modern architecture and decoration. 

The third word is "consistency." This quality may 
be a little more difficult of perception at this point 
but not so difficult that it may not be grasped for 
application to all cases. When the Greek designed 
a column he considered this column a unit, and its 
shaft and capital were made in the same material, 
appearing as one piece when complete. If statuary 
occupied space within the gable of the temple or in spe- 
cially designed niches, this statuary seemed to take its 
place in size, scale, form and line within its enclosure in 
such a way that the building as a unit expressed repose. 
Much of this was due to the perfect scale relation be- 



tween the enclosures and the figures. Ornament, in 
consistent amounts, was consistently applied in the 
right places. During the highest development of the 
Greek ideal violations of the principle of beauty 
through inconsistent relationships are not found. 

It is a grave mistake to believe that all things are 
classic which seem to represent the forms or shapes or 
motifs of the classic period. Nothing can be further 
from the classic ideal than the misuse of the three 
orders, the various decorative motifs, and the Greek 
figures as they are used in this country to-day, although a 
great change for the better is noticeable since the invasion 
of this field by the great architect, Stanford White. 

It is not in the copy of these forms that the classic 
idea is expressed. It is in the sincere and consistent 
choice and application of them as well as their adapta- 
tion to period needs. The artist should realize and 
make a part of his mental equipment the wonderful 
idealism as shown in abstract proportion that domi- 
nates all Hellenic expression. 

From time to time great men in all the fields of 
period expression have studied the classic for inspira- 
tion, and their work has been just as near the classic 
ideal as their realization of the qualities of form which 
the classic expressed would permit. The adaptation 
of the classic has been influenced in all times, more or 
less, by local conditions as well as by the state of mind 
of the man who interpreted the idea. 

The sensing of fundamental quality in period study 
is the only way to gain an understanding of what periods 
are and to become anything but a slavish parrot 
copyist, always missing the essential idea. 


The second great art influence came from the birth 
of the Christian religion. The pagan Greek had in 
mind the idealization of the body and other material 
things. The Christian religion took "no thought 
for the body, what it should eat or drink, or where- 
withal it should be clothed." It directed its thought 
energy to the soul and its preparation for a future 

This difference of ideal brought about the won- 
derful change in art expression which found its full 
flower in the Gothic cathedral of the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries. To grasp anything of the mean- 
ing of this ingenious, imaginative and emotional sym- 
bolic art is the work of years. Well-focussed action 
brought about an expression of the ecclesiastical idea, 
first moderately, but finally in the flamboyant Gothic 
spirit. All feeling, joy and gratitude became one con- 
centrated mass or hallelujah expression in which stone, 
metal, wood and glass vie with each other to express 
the wonderful story. As this period reaches its highest 
point of development it seems almost to eliminate 
material and to leave a vast network or lacelike fabric 
of symbolic spiritual expression. 

To attempt to compare this great period with the 
classic is impossible because of the entirely different 
point of view. To endeavour to unite the two in spirit 
or expression without or within the house is well-nigh 
impossible. Each has its place and each is the expres- 
sion of a type of life which has never been repeated and 
probably never will be. To restore or rebuild a Gothic 
cathedral under the conditions of modern thought is as 
impossible as for man to create a world. But one or 



two persons in this century have made even an ap- 
proach to such an achievement. 

The period last discussed used nature and naturalistic 
motifs as symbolic of Christian ideas, and treated them 
in a conventional manner more or less suited to the 
material into which they were translated. This treat- 
ment, however, was not as conventional as it might 
have been had the state of civilization and the methods 
of expression in other fields been developed as they 
have been since. 

The third influence, which I have called the human- 
istic influence, is the one which proceeded from the 
Italian Renaissance and has been a ruling factor in 
the development of all subsequent period ideas. This 
influence was nature with all its manifestations in the 
life of man, affecting all those things which he uses. 
It differed from the Hellenic idea in just this particular: 
the Greek saw nature as God's expression of beauty in 
creation; the Humanist saw nature as belonging to 
man for man's personal gratification. 

The danger in this viewpoint can be appreciated 
by the simplest mind. So long as man's thought was 
Gothic or Hellenic, there was no risk in the use of nature 
in all its forms, so soon, however, as the humanistic 
idea took firm root its abuse began. The ascetic, frag- 
ile, spiritual beauty of the Gothic period gave way 
before the naturalistic, human ideal of the High Ren- 
aissance. The luxurious display of nature's symbols 
perished in the decadent conception of those who saw 
in sensuous beauty only an appetite gratification. 

This decadent naturalism has served as a source of 
inspiration for artists in various periods and for those in 


this country who have been addicted to the selection of 
such materials as the only expressions of art. 

If one remembers the two viewpoints of nature dis- 
cussed above and the expression of spiritual beauty in 
which the Gothic stands supreme, he will perceive the 
three influences which have dominated men in the evo- 
lution of the so-called periods in art history. 

No attempt will be made in this book to treat of the 
Italian Renaissance which is a subject far too broad 
to attempt in a small space. It may be possible, how- 
ever, to suggest the filtration of these three great influ- 
ences through Italian life, which really gives the key to 
the interpretation of all modern periods in France, 
England and the United States. 

The Italian Renaissance expressed itself in three 
great epochs namely, the Early, High and Decadent. 

The Early period was the expression of humanism in 
Greek forms filtered through a Gothic consciousness. 
The result was a dignified, strong, sincere, consistent 
return to nature and to the structural principles that 
governed the expression of man's requirements. This 
period is wonderfully beautiful in its conception and in 
its material expression. 

The High period represents the same idea, but the 
civilization of that time called for a wider social expres- 
sion, a more vigorous and versatile life, more luxury 
and a less formal adherence to the traditions of the 

The Decadent period abandoned itself to fantastic 
conceptions and combinations of structural and dec- 
orative objects. Consequently impossible versions of 
nature's forms appeared, a various and incongruous 



treatment of these ensued, while structural proprieties 
were disregarded. 

The inordinate display of this period is responsible in 
no small degree for the tawdriness and vulgarity that 
has characterized much of our social expression for the 
last one hundred years. If this is not directly traceable 
to the third period of the Renaissance it is so indirectly, 
for the worst phases of this period that showed them- 
selves during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV 
have been admired and frequently copied. Being ac- 
cepted as representing the best in French art, they have 
had an influence out of proportion to their merit. The 
average tourist, and in fact some so-called artists, have 
found in the examples of this decadent style their only 
source of enjoyment in Italy and France, and have re- 
turned to us not even guessing the importance of what 
they have missed in the less obtrusive and more refined 
expressions of the same period. 

The value of knowing thoroughly the fundamentals 
of any period may be recognized through the analogy in 
learning a language, in the study of music, and in the 
acquisition of knowledge in any field where expression 
is possible to us. From time to time, in the discussion 
of various periods, it will be necessary to speak of these 
Italian periods and of the three great influences which 
made them, referring to them by name or by the qualities 
for which they stand. The principal reason for having 
treated them in this way is to arouse in the mind of the 
reader the desire to study them carefully before attempt- 
ing to know later periods or trying to interpret them 
as mere matters of structural form and ornamental 


The more thoroughly one realizes the qualities which 
each period and each part of it represents, the more ade- 
quately is he informed as to the material from which he 
may draw in solving his problem, whatever it may be. 
The longer one studies the more convinced he is that, 
after all, the really vital things are very simple and few 
in number. The failure on the part of any of us to 
create a truly adequate expression of our ideas is largely 
due to the fact that we have missed in our research and 
study the fundamental truths which each object em- 

To summarize, then, let us remember that a period 
has no positively definite time limit marked by the birth 
and death of anybody, but that three great ideas have 
dominated peoples, and the expression of these ideas has 
been their art. 

Let us also remember that each period at its highest 
point of development is the most adequate possible 
expression of the ideas which dominate that era. It is 
necessary to keep in mind the difference between the 
form and the spirit of a thing. If the external form 
only is understood, one never knows whether a copy 
expresses the idea or not. It may vary in proportion 
and relations in such a way as to have a totally different 
meaning from that which it expressed when originally 
created. The qualities which the original embodied 
are permanent and, whether the same forms or different 
ones are used in the new creation, the qualities of the 
old should be apparent. 

With these things clearly in mind, we may look briefly 
at the expressions of the French and English periods, 
and then we should try to see the relation of these to 



our own clearly defined Colonial period. Thus we may 
consider the modern problem, which is not the copy or 
reproduction of any period but the knowledge of the 
forces and qualities of all periods and the adaptation of 
these to modern social, political and religious require- 




GOTHIC art was indigenous to the soil of France. By 
temperament, association and practice the French peo- 
ple were the logical ones to accept, mature and express 
the Gothic idea. Unhampered for the most part by 
classic traditions, unfettered by a strong national ex- 
pression, and still in a somewhat formative state, they 
accepted in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries 
the material which blossomed and bore fruit in the 
twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. 

Gothic as an expression particularly in architecture 
and furnishings was an idea foreign to England and 
Italy, and by them expressed with a very strong tinge 
of national colouring. This betrays the national dif- 
ference quite as strongly as it emphasizes the original 
Gothic formulation. Having matured and expressed the 
Gothic idea, the flower of its expression was found in 
cathedrals, monasteries, libraries, and in some details of 
the palaces of the king and of the highest nobles. So 
far as general domestic architecture, furnishings and 
decorative material are concerned, little remains, and 
probably little was produced, up to the time of Louis 
XII in the late fifteenth century. 

On the other hand, the Renaissance, with all it signi- 



fled, was indigenous to the Italian soil because Italy was 
the home of classic and Roman traditions and every- 
thing classic in form was acceptable as an expression of 
that tradition. In France, however, the Renaissance 
was an affected style, as it was also in England and the 
northern European countries. It must necessarily be 
so, equally, in this country and at this time. 

Consumed with the Gothic idea and having exhausted 
in ecstasy the materials necessary in telling its story, 
the French were ready by 1495 for a new idea. Earlier 
periods had seen the Crusades, and those taking part in 
them had passed through the land of the Renaissance 
into the influence of the Orient and, naturally, they had 
brought back with them to France more or less of the 
feeling which they had unconsciously absorbed. They 
also brought back souvenirs of these strange civiliza- 
tions, and gradually public notice was drawn to the 
difference between their own products and these foreign 
forms of expression. 

Louis XII, in his Italian campaign, grasped more than 
had any of his predecessors of the advanced state of 
civilization in that country and the forms in which this 
was expressed. His followers, too, returned with more 
and more accumulated souvenir material, some forms of 
which were applied to the Gothic background of the 
palaces in France. He may, therefore, be styled the 
forerunner of the Renaissance in France. 

The Renaissance really began with Francis I who 
came to the throne in 1515. By birth, association, tem- 
perament and disposition he was of the quality likely to 
demand change, refinement, a more or less flippant ex- 
pression of social ideals, and a fulness of beauty in social 


expression which the pure Gothic idea forbade. Three 
great influences were set in motion by Francis I, which 
changed the whole complexion and direction of French 
endeavour and worked out the two great periods in 
French art which may be called the French Renaissance 
and the French period styles. 

The first of these influences was the change in religious 
viewpoint during his reign. Instead of the concentra- 
tion on religious idealism which characterized the 
earlier centuries, he focussed his thought and spent his 
time and his energy as well as that of his associates upon 
the development of the commercial social ideal. This 
phase of life involved the turning of constructive crea- 
tive energies into the channels of architecture, furnish- 
ings and decoration, in order to satisfy its new demands. 

Naturally, since Gothic was the expression of the 
centuries already past, he turned his attention to the 
cultivation and promulgation of the newer ideas of the 
Italian Renaissance. He visited Italy and saw for him- 
self, persuaded artists to leave their country, furnished 
materials and directed forces all to the attainment of 
this end. 

The second modifying influence was the change which 
resulted in the social or domestic ideal. The strict 
adherence to the family vows and all that that entails 
had been the social ideal of the earlier national develop- 
ment. Francis, by openly inviting to court the most 
beautiful, cultured and fascinating women of the land, 
and by choosing successively the companionship of one 
or more of these to the exclusion of the rights of the 
queen, developed a new attitude toward social and do- 
mestic relations. This social change reached its cul- 



mination in the days of Louis XV in the eighteenth 
century. This difference in the power and place of 
woman in social and court life led to wild extravagances, 
and the most ingenious methods were employed to ob- 
tain new and subtle art expressions for the satisfaction of 
each favourite as she, in turn, enjoyed the royal favour. 

Art, from this time on became, in France, more or 
less an art for women. Each epoch showed to a great 
extent the striving of artists in every field for some- 
thing extravagant and beautiful which should be suited 
to the taste and refinement of Milady, whoever she 
might be. This fact places the French Renaissance 
and the French period styles at once in a category by 
themselves, their qualities being quite individual when 
compared with those of other nations. 

The third influence was the rapidity with which 
France was organized, politically and socially, during 
this reign and, through the extension of commerce and 
international association, the accumulation of wealth 
which was lavishly expended in the social lines before 

It is not our intention here to enter into details of 
the period of the Early Renaissance in France, but 
to set in motion certain ideas which account for the 
maturity of the French styles as we know them and lead 
up to an appreciation of the value of these styles in 
modern decoration. 

The French Renaissance may be said to include the 
time from the accession of Francis I in 1515 to the 
accession of Louis XIII in 1610, and was developed 
largely during the reign of Francis I, Henry II and 
Henry IV. The short reigns of Francis II and Henry 




III have made so little impress on art styles that they 
are not worth mentioning in this connection. 

The reign of Francis I, Henry II and Henry IV, how- 
ever, are each dominated by particular ideas, and still 
the fundamental influences are the change in religious 
attitude, the birth and development of the new social 
ideas and practices, and the commercial relationships 
which made possible the rapid advancement in every 
line of creative endeavour. 

It must be remembered here that there are three stages 
of development in all art periods. They may be called 
the Early, the High and the Decline. We look to the 
Early period for the finest expression of sane idealism 
which the period gives, to the High period for the rich, 
full, material display demanded by the principles 
which control the inception of the thought, and to the 
Decline for the complete materialization of the original 
idea with the loss of simple constructive necessities in 
the deluge of ornament and ostentatious display. We 
find also in the Decline an injection of materialistic, 
physical idealism where the aesthetic or the spiritual 
idea had dominated the original thought. 

The period of Francis I represents the first idealism of 
the Renaissance in France. It may be said to express 
in its entirety the best period of the Italian Renais- 
sance modified first by the temperamental qualities 
of the French people and then by the personality of 
Francis I and his immediate associates. Its archi- 
tecture represents a tremendous step in the evolution 
of modern luxury and comfort. Its decorative appear- 
ance embodies the laws of decorative choice and arrange- 
ment sensed keenly and worked out in the adaptation 

* 135 


of the best statement of Italian Renaissance forms. The 
textiles and textures are the expression of the fairly 
restrained, though beautifully decorated, ideas of the 
Middle Renaissance. The development of furniture 
was intensely interesting because the two new ideas, 
of beauty for the senses and of comfort for the body, 
were vying with each other for new fields in which 
to exercise the lately awakened instincts of a slumbering 

Tables, chairs, cabinets and chests were modified 
from th( Italian material, scale, construction and com- 
bination to the distinctly French, which was smaller, 
lighter, less dignified, more domestic and less formal. 
In all other fields of endeavour the same general quali- 
ties of refinement, scope and concrete beauty are clearly 
felt. This was the beginning of the second great tem- 
peramental expression of the French people. 

The period of Henry II may be briefly described as a 
cross between the style Francis I and the Baroque 
Italian Renaissance, with Francis I and Early Italian 
ideas strongly prevailing. Added to these two influences 
was the new Oriental idea, espoused and promulgated 
by many in the court, including the court favourite 
Diane de Poitiers. For her and through her came 
some of the finest expressions in the period of Henry 
II. Naturally a woman of exquisite taste, of liberal 
education and unlimited power, it was possible for 
her to develop, particularly in the interior of houses, 
the ideas to which the Early period had given birth. 

Much of this period was devoted to the advancement 
of the art of tapestry weaving, wood carving and textile 
manufacture. At times the art seems to be dominated 


by the High Renaissance or the early stages of the 
Decline in Italy. This was due, no doubt, to the influ- 
ence exercised by the queen Catherine de Medici 
whose ideas and practices were always strictly Italian. 
She surrounded herself as much as possible with such 
Italian prelates, workmen and court ladies as would 
throw the weight of their influence toward Italian ex- 
pression as opposed to that broadening type which was 
embraced by Diane de Poitiers. New kinds and more 
articles of furniture were in demand to satisfy the 
growing taste for display and comfort. Cer$h types 
of chests became cabinets, cabinets became sideboards, 
sideboards, dressing tables and writing desks, things 
unheard of in any country, even in Italy at that time. 
Ornament was a no less prolific field for creative genius. 

The whole range of Italian Renaissance was exploited, 
resulting in a heaviness, a mixed aggregate, and a col- 
lection of forms lacking the delicacy, simplicity and 
refinement with which the period of Francis I speaks 
so eloquently. Architecture received little impetus 
although it became the function of the royal power to 
complete and add to the great number of buildings 
begun by Francis I and either left unfinished or found 
too small adequately to express the needs of his epoch. 

Suffice it to say that the Renaissance reached its 
height of decorative possibility in the reign of Henry 
II, and lost in this reign particularly toward its 
close the exquisite qualities which the period of 
Francis I had given. This was the natural, spontane- 
ous adaptation of the Italian Renaissance in genuine 
French feeling. 

The period of Henry IV shows a strange conglomera- 


tion. Born a Huguenot, and during the first part of 
his life a believer hi all that the Huguenot faith pro- 
claimed, his reign marks an epoch of consistent sever- 
ity and plainness which outlines itself with great 
distinctness against the rich informalism of Henry II. 
Later in life, however, he and his followers seem to 
have lost the idea for which the Huguenot faith stands 
and to have realized that it was not the natural out- 
come of the conditions under which they lived. 

No doubt the negotiations between France and 
Italy, in which Marie de Medici was sold to France to 
satisfy a debt, had much to do with the future develop- 
ment of this style. Although she was married to 
Henry IV, it must be remembered that her life was 
quite apart from that of the court as France knew it, 
and even from the king himself, for she was not crowned 
queen until a very few days before the assassination of 
the king. 

The French conception, as already developed, was 
then established plus the ideas which Marie de Medici 
and her court imported directly from the Pitti Palace 
in Florence, where she had been brought up in a pecu- 
liarly isolated way in an uncongenial atmosphere. 
Her associates were bourgeois; she was lonely and 
piqued, discouraged and sad, whimsical, and by nature 
inclined to material things. The fact that she was 
starved in every way in her youth, bartered for a 
monetary consideration and placed in an impossible 
situation, may account for the kind of influence she 
exercised on the rest of this period and the Early period 
of her son, Louis XIII. 

Being surrounded by persons inferior in birth and 




culture, and not having the fullest confidence of the 
king and his ministers, she naturally sought to express 
herself in such things as would at least demand atten- 
tion and remark from all with whom she came in contact. 
Evidently, too, there were certain persons of the court 
whose taste must be deferred to. 

Architecturally, most of the work was the completion 
of things already begun. So far as furnishing was con- 
cerned, some new pieces were originated and others fell 
into disuse. Flemish artists began to make themselves 
felt because of the Edict of Nantes which gave religious 
freedom in France to all and was the signal for an influx 
of Flemish, English and West Germanic artisans. 
Nearly all of these represented the art crafts in some 
form. The finest workers in metal, wood, stone, cloth 
and other media found their homes in France. This in- 
fluence is felt to the very end in the quality of the 
technique shown in the expression of any idea in any 
niaterial up to the time of the French Revolution. 
Much, however, of its efficiency was lost with the rev- 
ocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in the 
last days of his life. 

So far as the feeling in this period is concerned 
and that is the important thing in this connection 
it may be styled the decline or decadence of the Ren- 
aissance in France. It really corresponds in France 
to the decline of the Italian Renaissance which occurred 
from about 1550, and is characterized by the bourgeois 
taste which always chooses the most ornate, the show- 
iest and the most impossible things under the impres- 
sion that they are true examples of refined artistic 



Perhaps the most important conclusion to be de- 
rived from the period of Henry IV is that, given a 
plain, simple, dignified, sincere, consistently decorative 
thing and one which is involved, dissembling, unpardon- 
ably loaded with decoration and worked in unrelated 
motifs and materials, the bourgeois taste invariably 
selects the latter. This is partly due to the fact 
that all are not trained to select intelligently or 
reasonably, and most are not qualified through emo- 
tional endowment or training to select without stop- 
ping to think why a thing is, or is not, good. Neither 
this intuitive perception of consistency in decoration 
and beauty nor an intellectual conception or judgment 
of it was present in the dominating idea of the period of 
Henry IV. 

To grasp the Baroque influence or the materialistic 
naturalistic substitution for idealism it is only neces- 
sary to study the type of persons, the quality of orna- 
ment, and the technique manifested in the tapestries of 
the day. This same aggregate quality idea was seen in 
the painting, as may be easily distinguished in the won- 
derful, though sensuous and voluptuous, paintings of the 
court of Marie de Medici by Rubens. Out of the same 
consciousness that chose and admired these tapestries 
and paintings came the choice of and admiration for 
the furnishings and fittings of the interior. Cabinets, 
chests, tables and chairs were not only covered with 
carved materials, but loaded with them. This decora- 
tive material consisted of a grotesque combination, im- 
possible in nature and irregular in art, of human, animal, 
vegetable and mineral motifs naturalistically done but 
unthinkably combined. 


This adaptation of the universe in a naturalistic form 
in all materials is no more art than it is nature. It is a 
misconception of the relation of nature to art, a mis- 
conception of decoration itself, and an evidence of wrong 
judgment as to the choice and application of decoration. 
It is the inevitable sign of a decadent taste and a love for 
show which entirely eclipses the power to distinguish the 
eternal fitness of things, which is the foundation of all 
art expression. The inspiration for all this was found in 
the life of the times. It was the natural consequence of 
the acceptance by the people of a foreign form of art 
expression with the many outside influences which 
modified its growth and the culmination of an idealism 
which puts physical, sensuous "gratification before not 
only the spiritual law but the aesthetic conception as 

While this period may be said to be the closing one 
of the French Renaissance, it is the foundation for the 
subsequent development of periods which may be 
called the French styles. There is much in the period 
of Francis I which may be copied or readapted with 
profit and pleasure in the development of the American 
ideal. Clearly, to actually copy the Francis I style is 
quite impossible since our conditions are so dissimilar. 

The period of Henry II, too, presents structural 
features, forms, new articles of furnishing and decora- 
tive ideas which are really forces not only in the French 
periods but also in modern times if handled as force 
instead of objects to be copied. 

Decorative features, textiles, pottery and the like 
found a beginning in these periods which in many others 
have not been improved upon for their decorative effect. 



Thus are decorative forces potential and may be used 
in many combinations and arrangements when one 
understands for what they stand. On the other hand, 
to copy these slavishly with backgrounds and acces- 
sories is quite as impossible as to so copy the architec- 
ture itself. 

For the period of Henry IV there is less to be said. A 
selection of anything which is truly expressive of the 
period indicates a dearth of other material. 

The French Renaissance may be said to end with the 
death of Henry IV in 1610, although its influence was 
felt for some years during the regency of Marie de 

Louis XIII came to the throne in 1610, and was con- 
temporary with James I and Charles I of England. 
During his reign of thirty-three years the transition 
from Renaissance to strictly French period styles took 
place. One of the marked characteristics of the French 
is their adaptability or susceptibility to new ideas and 
their assimilation, modification and re-expression of 
these ideas. 

At the end of the reign of Louis XIII scarcely any- 
thing was left that could be called Renaissance in its 
form or feeling so thoroughly had it become modified 
by other influences and permeated with the true French 
atmosphere. Briefly considered, the period of Louis 
XIII from the artistic decorative standpoint illus- 
trates the epoch of conflicting influences accepted, har- 
monized and reconstructed, and it paves the way for the 
magnificent development of the period of Louis XIV. 
By nature Louis XIII was less fitted to dominate a style 
than any of his predecessors. His genius and his atten- 


tion were devoted to quite other fields of development. 
But certain inevitable influences were felt that modified 
the national attitude and brought into its development 
new ideas which resulted in the grand periods that fol- 
lowed. One of the most interesting and one of the 
strongest influences for growth in the arts and letters 
is found in the power of Cardinal Richelieu. 

Immediately upon his assuming a position of impor- 
tance, Richelieu furthered the causes of science and art, 
and bent his energies toward the furthering of their 
development during the time of his power. In sym- 
pathy with scientific research and a devoted lover of the 
beautiful, he did much to pave the way for intensive 
development along these lines, in which his influence 
was felt for two centuries after. 

The queen, Anne of Austria, a Spanish woman with 
all the inherent tendencies of strict, formal, Spanish 
etiquette, contributed no small part to the formulation 
of this new and very mixed type of art expression. 
Spanish art at this time was a mixture of the Saracenic 
influence as it was expressed in Granada and the Italian 
Decadence as it was espoused by the Spanish people. 
Grandeur, elegance, show and heaviness were the chief 
characteristics Anne of Austria contributed to the period 
of Louis XIII. 

At this time the Flemish influence was felt in the 
form of twisted woods, simple rectangular structures, 
the scroll, and their peculiar treatment of the acanthus. 
Their methods eventually took firm root in French soil. 
Add to this the influence, through the Duke of Bucking- 
ham and his suite, of the English period known as that 
of Charles I, and one readily perceives how the period of 



Louis XIII received vast potential influences Italian, 
Spanish, Saracenic, Flemish and English. All of these 
required to be assimilated, reconstructed and intelli- 
gently used to express the needs of the new phase of 
life into which France had entered. 

Difficult it would indeed be to describe in a limited 
space the period of Louis XIII. Enough may be 
gleaned, however, from this brief discussion to stimulate 
the reader to historical research and period study, to 
make him realize that he is looking for the natural con- 
sequence that must follow the acceptance of certain 
ideas, and that any art expression is but the natural re- 
sult of harbouring certain ideals and allowing the mind 
to see them as important factors in the satisfaction of 
life's requirements. This whole period may be said to 
be a transition between the adaptation of Italian styles 
to French use and the new idea of seeking structural and 
beauty elements anywhere, and using these elements in 
an adapted way to express the taste and intelligence of 
a people whose requirements or needs change as their 
civilization advances. In this way only is it possible 
to make a consistent use of the art forms of any period 
in the expression of individual needs. 




THE period of Louis XIV, Le Grand Monarque, from 
1643 to 1715, is not only the longest reign of any Euro- 
pean monarch, but also by far the most important of any 
French king. The high tide of this period marks the 
epoch of absolute monarchy in France, and also of the 
crystallization of a national form of expression in all 
fields. This not only greatly influenced the subsequent 
French styles, but has been the source of inspiration in 
other national period forms. 

Certain clearly defined conditions existed when Louis 
XIV assumed the reins of government, contributing 
each in its way to the climax reached during his 

First. France had organized and partially developed 
a political policy whose tendency was the extension of 
national domain and the promotion of international 
relationships. This gave an impetus to French thought, 
while association and contact with other lands and other 
forms of life affected the general consciousness. 

Second. There had been established through the 
untiring efforts of Richelieu, Mazarin, and their collab- 
orators a respect for arts and letters, science and com- 
merce, which touched the remotest parts of the kingdom, 
and gradually admiration for the arts became the fashion, 



developing almost to a mania, particularly among the 
upper classes and the court. 

Third. Conscious effort appears to have been di- 
vorced from religious idealism and concentrated on 
social evolution, which became the dominating impulse 
of the rapidly developing nation. 

Fourth. The early isolation of the court at Ver- 
sailles and the gradual magnetic influence it exerted 
over the beauty, talent and money of the realm, has- 
tened the development of forms of social etiquette, 
ceremonial observance and pageantry which established 
the social criteria for the world at large. 

Fifth. Through the Edict of Nantes, France was 
flooded by hordes of Flemish and Dutch Huguenots who 
were artists and craftsmen, working in all materials, 
ready to do the bidding of any court personage whose 
whim and resources permitted creation in any field. 
This variety of craftsmen, the excellence of their work, 
and the wealth of material at their command aided no 
little the growth and maturity of this entirely new 
French period art expression. 

Sixth. It must be remembered that Francis I estab- 
lished an entirely different social domestic ideal. It 
has been said before that the art of France is an art pre- 
eminently for women. In no periods is this so clearly felt 
as in the periods of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. 
While in scale, in colour and design much of the period 
of Louis XIV is masculine in its feeling, the style itself 
and the variety of its forms is no doubt very largely 
influenced by the female favourites of the monarch. 

During the ascendancy of Madame de Montespan the 
period reaches its highest form of development. The 


qualities of the woman her indomitable will, her love 
of show, her vanity and pride, with the refinement and 
culture which she undoubtedly possessed are all 
clearly seen in every object supplied the court during the 
years of her most absolute sway, not alone over Louis 
himself, but over all those who through her influence ex- 
pected and received favours. La Valliere, with less 
force, therefore less power, made far less impress than 
did de Montespan ; while Madame de Maintenon, whose 
life was given to service and to the outward regeneration 
of the court, has left an indelible impression of heaviness, 
formality, lack of grace and an entire absence of the 
playful charm which the High period expresses in so 
notable a degree. 

The important fact to be retained is that the art of 
Louis XIV is dominated by female influence, and that 
this influence, increasing, finds its climax of perfection 
in the following reign, when Louis XV expresses it most 

There is still another condition which has no little 
bearing on the remarkable crystallization of the style 
of Louis XIV. This is the period of absolutism in 
which the monarch declared himself the church and the 
state. All impulses bent to the one, the aggrandize- 
ment of self and the promulgation in no uncertain 
terms of the absolute monarchical ideal. This in no 
little measure is the reason for the gradual disappear- 
ance of the influences of the Italian Renaissance, the 
Saracenic invasion, which came through Spain, and of 
the Teutonic motif. It resulted in the ultimate crystal- 
lization of a united French form of expression. 

Perhaps an examination into the effects of these 



influences will serve to establish a mental connection 
which will give the period of Louis XIV a place in the 
decorative idea. 

First of all, this new concentrated social ideal de- 
veloped the most magnificent and ornate display of 
modern times. The wealth of material, its luxurious 
combinations and its military effects, have been the 
admiration of the unthinking from that day to this. 
Again, the whole palace at Versailles, with its walls, its 
ceilings, its accessory objects, formed a vast stage set- 
ting for the most extravagant pageants in court life 
that history records. The thought of the palaces as 
a suitable background against which to show furniture 
or people was furthest from the Louis XIV idea. The 
palace produced a scenic effect into which the most 
gorgeous costumes, the most subtle, and still preten- 
tious, manners and customs, the most ornate and un- 
related forms, were constantly to be seen moving to 
and fro. Consequently the result must be overdone, 
heavy, mixed and whimsical, so far as its applications 
to real life are concerned. 

To be sure, there was good and bad in the materials 
used, in the designs prepared, in the technique of the 
work done and in the caprices that inspired it. But 
the aggregate of these things produced a mixed effect 
beyond ordinary comprehension, and too involved to 
be a part of anything except the most luxurious, rich- 
est and most presuming of all possible interior expres- 
sion. Even then it must be readapted, refined and 
worked out by the most artistic hands in order to make 
it appear as anything else than a grand ballroom or 
hotel dining-room when seen as a full blaze of glory. 


It is important that we should not confuse the archi- 
tecture with the interior furnishings and decorations of 
the period called Louis XIV. Let us remember that 
there were two sets of ideas seeking prevalence in 
France. The classic idea, with all that it expresses 
in temperance, simplicity, consistency and sincerity, 
was still revered, taught and practised by a certain 
class of persons of education, men of letters and of the 
arts, while directly opposed to it was the extravagant 
exposition of the most radical humanistic tendencies. 
This accounts, in the main, for the two types of liter- 
ature then prevalent and for the development of classic 
exterior architecture. This phase is represented by 
the fagade of the Louvre, of Versailles, and kindred 
buildings of this period. These forms of French ar- 
chitecture more nearly expressed the Italian spirit 
and are more readily adapted to modern conditions 
than are any of the French periods, with the pos- 
sible exception of the late Louis XV, when the 
classic impulse tended toward refinement and a re- 
duction in scale, so that it produced the historic 
gem, the Little Trianon. 

It is interesting to see how this classic idea, which 
found its reincarnation in architecture so wonder- 
fully wrought, failed to make any decided impress on 
either the architecture of the interior or the objects 
used in its furnishing. It is true that classic deco- 
rative motifs appear in the period of Louis XIV, 
but so changed are they and in general so sub- 
merged in other decorative forms that they count 
for little, and the letter rather than the spirit is per- 



The decorative motifs may be classed under three 
distinct heads : 

There are the classic motifs egg-and-dart, astragal 
and dentil remade in form, readapted in scale, 
and used as borders and mouldings to give place and 
form to the other types with which they are always 

Then there is the shell, which shows rapid changes 
from the well-formed shell of the early days to the 
parted motif which in the end became the rococo or 
rocaille so familiar in this and the following period. 

From the Italian scroll, filtered through Flemish 
usage and adapted by the French, comes the form 
which is really the controlling one in the decorative 
expression of the entire period. The naturalistic or 
humanistic influence, which never conventionalizes or 
considers materials, was introduced in flower, animal 
and human form, representing as nearly as possible 
that for which each object stands in nature. 

The combination of these three types of motif form 
what is known as the Louis XIV motif style. These 
motifs are arranged in bisymmetric form, mingled and 
commingled, whether carved, cast, chiselled, or painted, 
so as to produce certain qualities in appearance for 
which the period is valuable to us, and which we may use 
in adapted form 

It will be seen here that there is no relationship 
established between the room as a background and 
furniture, decorative objects, persons and the other im- 
portant things. Remember that the scenic effect of 
the thing itself is the idea for which the thing exists, 
rather than as a suitable background effect against 


which rarer and more important things may be prop- 
erly exploited. Neither is there a thought in this grand 
period of restfulness, quietness, unassuming refinement 
and sincerity of expression which marks the more 
classic periods. It is these qualities of which we in this 
generation are so greatly in need. 

The furniture of this period expresses two remark- 
ably opposed ideas. In structure it is rectangular and 
formal, huge in scale, mixed in material. Its decora- 
tions and sometimes its upholstery appear as informal 
motifs, non-structurally treated, playfully arranged, 
and often so mixed and intermixed that the story of 
their application to a structural form becomes untrans- 
latable, and one abandons the whole as a maze through 
which he is unable to direct his thought. 

The study of the period shows the colour to be, in 
the early part, a readaptation of the colours of the High 
Renaissance in Italy. Dark red, old gold, dark green 
and dark blue predominate. These tones are below 
middle value, the textiles are rather simple, Italian 
motifs dominating and simplicity being the key 
idea. As the period progresses these colours became 
a little lighter, more mixed and, finally, toward the 
latter part of the period, more naturalistic in their 
motif with a larger number of colours used in each 

Our object in looking into these influences and 
their results has been to awaken the reader, first, to 
the fact that there is a direct relationship of cause and 
effect between the ideal dominant in the public mind 
and the art expression which is the result of needs 
arising from this state of consciousness. Again, it 



has been the aim to lead the reader to see that national 
feeling is the expression of a national idea and that, while 
it expresses perfectly that idea, it may be, and probably 
is, useless when employed to express any other idea if 
copied in its original form and manner. 

It is also important to know that, while all this 
is true, certain elements, structural facts, decorative 
motifs, colour combinations, furniture and ornament 
creations may be in themselves beautiful. If they 
are so, and their design qualities are realized, each and 
all of these are possible elements for use in expressing 
a new set of ideas. It is to prevent the mistake of 
believing that a Louis XIV room should be reproduced 
under modern conditions that this viewpoint has been 
given. We must see it as the expression of clear-cut 
qualities of the life which gave it birth. 

The first quality of this period may be said to be 
that of military formality. The monarch himself, 
though but five feet two inches tall, is always spoken 
of and thought of as expressing a high type of military 
dignity and precision. This quality is reflected in the 
entire art of the period. It is heavy and dominant 
in its scale; it is a scenic panorama of mixed motifs 
with diversified treatments, gradually becoming amalga- 
mated into one general feeling of structural and 
French adaptation. This military, formal, domina- 
ting manner unites with it as time goes on a growing 
refinement of detail in single objects which is almost 
lost in the dazzling brilliancy with which each thing 
or detail is forced to become an associate ele- 

The adaptation of the period of Louis XIV must 


be made to rooms in which the qualities just discussed 
are the ones to be brought out in the decoration, 
but the period itself is far less valuable for present 
use than it is as a key to the understanding of the 
two periods immediately following it. 




THE regency, which is the period of transition between 
the styles of Louis XIV and Louis XV, gave, through the 
character and activities of the Regent and his court, 
an added impetus to the forces inaugurated by Louis 
XIV. By a less thoroughly organized political system, 
a more flagrant disregard of the rights and customs of 
social relations, and by an open opposition to ethical 
and religious influences, this period prepared the minds 
of the people of France for the period of Louis XV, to 
which it may be said to be the logical preface. 

The great tax system of Louis XIV had so depleted 
the public treasury and exhausted the resources of the 
people at large that supplies for the maintenance of the 
ceremonial which characterized this monarch's reign 
could not be obtained under existing conditions. Energy 
was devoted to securing ready money rather than the 
installation of a system which should gradually supply 
future needs. The social questions became a matter of 
open court gossip. Manners and customs, heretofore 
regarded as somewhat private in their nature, were 
openly paraded as a natural and logical method of living. 
Writers and social dignitaries openly scorned ethical 
forms and religious customs which had hitherto received 


consideration at least as matters of outward obser- 

The excesses of the Regent and his intimates were of 
few years duration, but they established a precedent 
which worked out in the period of Louis XV into a well- 
defined manner of living. Less public money to spend 
meant, of course, less material for creative purposes. 
This resulted in a less gorgeous display on a less ponder- 
ous scale in useful and decorative objects. 

A less clearly defined outward appearance of decency 
gave great liberty to the already overwrought imagina- 
tions of the people of the court and the artists and crafts- 
men who created for them. A stronger and more 
firmly felt female domination reduced the art expression 
in amount of material, in scale, in variety of form and in 
colour choice. A less formal, less dignified and less 
heavy structure also resulted and a decorative arrange- 
ment which bespoke the whims and caprices of the in- 
telligent, sometimes refined, but extravagant ideas of 
the dominating influence. 

The most radical change in this period is seen in the 
growing popularity of the Flemish curve and the cabri- 
ole leg which had already been more or less exploited 
through the Huguenot influence from Flanders and 
England. The cabriole leg became the usual support in 
chairs, divans and sometimes in consoles. This selec- 
tion made essential the choice of curved lines to rep- 
resent the structural limitations of these articles of 
furniture. In harmony with this idea the curved treat- 
ment of the Flemish scroll and the already popular 
rococo motif appear in carved wood, sometimes in com- 
position, and not infrequently in metal ornament. 



Textile and ornament received their share of playful 
exploitation. Colour choice was lighter in value, in- 
tense and lavishly mixed in hue. Ornamental pieces 
in pottery and metal were designed, and sold when 
possible, regardless of their consistency with the fur- 
nishing objects to be associated with them. 

The style can scarcely be said to be of sufficient im- 
portance to receive special treatment except as it gives a 
prefatory insight into those phases of life which so 
greatly influenced the art of Louis XV. It also gives 
the origin and reason for the seeming return in furni- 
ture construction to curved-line feeling, cabriole sup- 
port and a finer scale than that which expressed the art 
form of Le Grand Monarque and his gorgeous court. 

The period of Louis XV from 1715 to 1774 marks the 
high tide of the French decorative styles. This is the 
climax of a materialistic ideal, the full flower of all those 
Renaissance tendencies established by Francis I and so 
strongly intrenched by Louis XIV. It shows the effect 
of two centuries of development in which the social ideal 
is preeminent, and luxury, sensuous pleasure and per- 
sonal gratification are the avowed ideals of life. It 
reaps a full harvest of all the ills attendant in the train 
of such ideals, but it develops in their evolution and ma- 
turity conscious, sensuous beauty of form, line, material 
and colour, and a delicacy of technique with a refined 
unified expression never equalled before or since in any 
period art expression of a social type. 

This period stands without challenge as the most 
sensuously beautiful, subtly refined and masterly han- 
dled of any period upon which a people has uncon- 
sciously impressed its type of the social domestic ideal. 


Because this is so, the period of Louis XV is of inesti- 
mable value in working out our national and personal 
problems wherever our ideals touch this great era of art 
which was devoted to sensuous beauty. 

The forces or impulses which actuated the period of 
the regency were, though at first not outwardly promi- 
nent, the keystone upon which this period is built. The 
monarch himself in early life reticent, delicate and 
magnetic was a great personal favourite with all who 
knew him. By his charm of manner he revivified the 
flagging interests of the tired court, reinspired the min- 
isters of state, and recreated, by modifying the methods 
of Louis XIV, a new French ideal. In his time the 
court was no longer a magnificent, ponderous and scenic 
show, but a collection of favoured per sons, born to luxury 
and enjoyment, to whom pleasure was the key to life's 
highest attainment, while isolation and mystic solitude 
in the conduct of court affairs silenced public clamour. 

Gradually the favourites of Louis XV gained over him 
such power that the appointment of ministers, their dis- 
missal, the granting of pensions, distribution of public 
expenditures and court etiquette were almost entirely 
in their hands. With the ascendancy of Madame de 
Pompadour these influences reached their zenith of 
strength. Although others took her place in the fickle 
attentions of the king, she never lost her hold on this 
dominating personality, but continued to control not 
only the laws but the customs and finances of France. 
Clever to the last degree, she not only bent her energies 
to hold this influence and use it for the exaltation and 
satisfaction of her friends and herself, but she even used 
the weaknesses of the king as an excuse for the profligate 



expenditure of money to satisfy the whims of other 
ladies less fortunate than she. 

The influence of all this on the art expression of the 
time was tremendous. It resulted in constant changes 
in decorative style, and these changes were made upon 
the already developed backgrounds of Louis XIV and 
the regency. Some new buildings were erected, and 
these, like those of the preceding reigns, still show the 
strongly intrenched classic influence in the architec- 
tural field. 

The interiors were a modification of the previous 
styles with the elimination of the classic idea and the 
fullest development of the humanistic, naturalistic, 
rocaille idea inaugurated by the regency. Such rooms 
seldom present a background sufficiently obscure or 
plain to connect in the best way with the furniture and 
furnishings for which they should have been designed. 

This statement in no way challenges the beauty of 
some of the walls and ceilings of this period. Rather it 
is intended to convey the idea that the panelled arrange- 
ments and the decorative ornament each in itself is 
often exquisitely beautiful in composition and decora- 
tive effect, but they are not, unless greatly simplified in 
amount, in colour and in arrangement, suited to our 
problem of a background against which modern people in 
modern clothes and with modern manners are to appear. 

One more important step in the evolution of the back- 
ground is the simpler way in which the walls were pan- 
elled, the treatment of ornament within these panels 
often leaving a restful blank space in the centre, 
and the general structural placing of this ornament 
although curve lined in its nature and general feeling, 


This period is further characterized by the total 
elimination of the classic motif. It seems quite impossi- 
ble to believe that the building of the Great Trianon, 
the Church of the Madeline, and the beginning of the 
Little Trianon with its classic meaning should show noth- 
ing in the interior decorative idea that seemed wholly 
related to them. Not only are the motifs absent but 
the general feeling which they would insure is lost in the 
exploitation of the rocaille and the naturalistic motif. 
These motifs always appear in the non-bisymmetric ar- 
rangement, which in truth is one of the distinguishing 
characteristics of the period of Louis XV. The mar- 
vellous way in which the occult balance of motifs is 
worked out in each field of expression is the key often 
for distinguishing the Louis XV from the Louis XVI 
motif treatment. 

Furniture followed quite closely the structural tend- 
encies of the regency just preceding. It became smaller 
in scale, still more graceful and sensuous, was expressed 
in more materials, and ranged widely from very much 
decorated to very little decorated structural effects. 
Chairs, divans, consoles and even cabinets and other 
articles, are made in natural walnut, beautifully shaped, 
exquisitely carved and sometimes upholstered in tapes- 
try whose texture, motif and colour express the same 
general feeling as that of the natural wood. 

One can hardly conceive wooden chairs of this period 
covered with fragile taffeta or a finely felt brocade whose 
texture and colour relate them to quite another type of 
this period style. It is the natural companion of the 
other type which is either gilded or enamelled in old 
ivory or beautiful grays. This treatment has the effect 



of refining them and giving them a genuinely feminized 
appearance. The same qualities are often found in a 
scale still further reduced where the chairs are fitted 
only for a drawing-room or a woman's boudoir. 

The wide range of materials in which furniture is 
made is of great assistance in the choice and use of this 
style in modern composition. Another treatment of 
wood in side pieces is found in lacquer and the applica- 
tion of a metal ornament. This combination of wood 
lacquer and metal would seem most incongruous. In 
other periods it would be so ; but in the period of Louis 
XV powerful technique with a perfect conception of 
balanced relationships made it possible to use even in- 
congruous materials and sometimes incongruous motifs. 
The result was, sometimes, a most appealing article, 
which, by virtue of these qualities, appeared to be a 
unit when completed. It would be dangerous, however, 
in most cases, to accept as possible the combinations in 
decorative materials used in the period of Louis XV. 

For the motifs themselves much may be said. To 
understand the feeling produced by the union of the 
ideas which these motifs exemplified one must bear in 
mind the development of the rocaille unit with all 
sorts of modifications and in all kinds of combinations. 
It seems incredible that the shell or rock shell motif 
could be combined with the Flemish scroll, and not 
only express an unlimited number of subtle and sensu- 
ous designs but also that these decorative designs 
should finally take the place of the very structure it- 
self. So prodigally was this idea developed, and so 
lavishly was the decorative quality applied, that in 
many pieces, particularly in consoles, the motif be- 




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came the structural fact and the supports were in- 
adequate, insincere, inconsistent and wholly opposed 
to the idea of strength, fitness or structural form. 

This fact shows that the intemperate or inordinate 
use of any decorative form, or of decorative forms in 
any combination, may lead even the most careful into 
a misconception of what decoration is, how it is to 
be used, and what its relation is to the structural 
idea. Where fitness to use is the first consideration 
in any object made, structure must dominate decora- 

The second set of motifs may be called the natural- 
istic. All of the tendencies of the time led to an admira- 
tion for and cultivation of natural objects, particularly 
in gardens and grounds, which logically brought these 
things into use for decorative purposes. The influences, 
too, outside of France (the Oriental and the Decadent 
Italian) tended toward the representation of men, 
animals and flowers combined in one unit or one object 
in such a way that by suggestion the result was either 
nauseating, grotesque, or beautifully fantastic, accord- 
ing to the skill of the artisan. 

The period of Louis XIV embraced this naturalistic 
idea, and the period of Louis XV used it in the expres- 
sion of the social ideals for which the period stood. 
Very natural gardens of flowers, very suggestive cupids, 
very naturalistic lords and ladies and very intimate cere- 
monials were combined with the rocaille motifs, par- 
ticularly in tapestries, paintings and the decorations of 

Even on fans, snuff boxes, buttons and other small 
articles are found, handled in the most extraordinary 



and delicate manner, naturalistic pictures whose charm 
lies in the delicacy of their treatment, the exquisite 
garments which are represented and the spirit of the 
time which they so clearly reflect. When examined 
from the standpoint of . decoration, they of course lack 
the fundamental qualities of the decorative idea, except 
as it appears, in this extraordinary period, to be in 
harmony with the other modes of expression. 

In colour the period of Louis XV presents a consider- 
able range of choice. In tapestries the backgrounds 
are light and are worked with the idea of background 
effect. Upon these appear various human incidents, 
flower forms and other motifs in a pictorial way. The 
general effect is not very dark or very light, but some- 
where around middle value. The period, however, is 
more generally expressed in brocades of gorgeous col- 
ours and wondrous weaves, and in taffeta and damask 
whose quality and texture bespeak the same refined 
and extravagant sense. A printed linen was also made, 
which, when contrasted with the same material in 
England, gives one a keen sense and appreciation of 
the qualities in this period of Louis XV. These, like 
tapestries, seem to present a value a little above or a 
little below middle, never strong and rugged, seldom 
weak and insipid. 

The hues of colours used are inexhaustible. It is the 
French period for the development of colours. There 
seems to be the widest range of colour choice of any 
period in France, and probably of any period of human 
expression. This is due probably to extravagance in 
all fields, to the desire of each person to outdo his 
neighbour, and to the fact that nature, to be at all ade- 


quately expressed, requires the whole range of the colour 

The colours of this period are quite intense and have a 
life and sparkle which is softened wonderfully by time 
and sometimes by the combinations of the colours 
themselves. A certain vitality and imaginative effect 
is presented which make textiles of this period partic- 
ularly interesting to study. 

Much, very much, might be said of the development 
of smaller decorative articles. Their name is legion, 
their varieties innumerable; but they, one and all, 
seem to owe their existence to the same underlying 
ideas, and each undoubtedly expresses as nearly as 
possible the answer to a demand. This is what every art 
object in every period does if it submits to the influence 
of the period. 

In summing up this period of Louis XV it is per- 
haps sufficient to say this is the social period of French 
art in which two centuries of national life find their 
full flower in an art expression which combines the 
weakness and the strength of the system which it 
represents. When seen purely from an artistic stand- 
point, no period in France, and few in history, contrib- 
ute so clearly defined an elemental force for design and 
composition; few periods are less suited to modern use 
except through adaptation, and few in selective quality 
are so little understood. 

This, too, is a style in which the power of keen dis- 
crimination is the key to successful use. This dis- 
crimination must come not from the acceptance of all 
things in the period of Louis XV as good, but from a 
most intimate knowledge of what is being expressed 



and how it has been done. One must never fail to 
reckon with the forms, the scale, the material and 
the colour, in their various combinations as they re- 
late to the aesthetic ideal. He must compute their 
value and, knowing his own problem, use with the ut- 
most discretion these subtle forces to express subtle 
ideas. These ideas are generally out of place when 
seen in huge groups or entirely by themselves, but, when 
commingled and interrelated with others, may form 
one of the most pleasing of all period suggestions. 

The period of Louis XVI, from 1774 to 1793, per- 
haps developed its fundamental idea more radically 
than any other in so short a time. During the period 
of Louis XIV two fundamental impulses or strains of 
domination are clearly defined, namely : the classic and 
the naturalistic. These were fused into a unit in 
which the latter is prominent in the decorative scheme 
and the former in the architectural idea. The period 
of Louis XV expresses the culmination, decline and 
extinction of this idea as used for merely sensuous 

The period of Louis XVI stands for the fall of this 
ideal and the restoration of the classic to first place in 
the decorative field, which was the place it always had 
held in French architecture. At the death of Louis 
XV the people of the French court were surfeited and 
debauched by pleasure, and their very nature cried 
out for rest and change. The finances of the country 
were drained by reckless extravagance while money 
for increased splendour was not forthcoming. The 
people were in no frame of mind to submit to further 
taxation or to continue the old methods of supplying 


the royal treasury. Dissatisfaction was rampant not 
only in Paris but in the outlying communities, and 
murmurs of revolt were not infrequent before the ac- 
cession of Louis XVI. 

The new king came to the throne under the most 
trying circumstances in any period of history. He was 
simple, reticent and retiring, with no initiative and no 
taste for extremes in anything. The strong will, the 
brilliant mind and the resourcefulness of Louis XIV 
might have balanced the ship of state for a time at 
least, but Louis XVI, with little insight into national 
conditions, was totally unfitted for the task of reestab- 
lishing a safe basis for his government. The new 
queen, Marie Antoinette, brought up in the strict 
Austrian court, simple, childish, exuberant, frivolous 
in nature, shrank intuitively from all that the life at 
Versailles expressed. She began her life a mere child 
in France, and when called to the throne was nothing 
more than a child in aims, desires and experience. 

It is astonishing that the development of this period 
was so rapid, and I do not hesitate to believe that she 
played a more important part in its development than 
any other one person, and that the influences which 
she championed were responsible in a great degree 
for the majority of the changes wrought. Very early, 
and very positively, she withdrew herself and her suite 
from the deceits and inconsistencies of the palace to 
the Little Trianon, and proceeded to build around her 
a different life from that instituted by the traditions 
of the palace. Her almost childish love of sports, her 
strong, inherent desire for simple things, combined 
with a childish disregard of money values and a desire 



to take a democratic part in everything she saw, led 
to some indiscretions, which I believe were frequently 
interpreted falsely. 

Not only was her personal influence thrown to the 
side of classicism, but she sought to surround herself 
with those persons whose ideals were of a nature similar 
to her own. Mingled with this classic idea is the girl- 
ish, playful, buoyant, animal life which must express 
itself even under classic restrictions. 

Some of the results of this period are too far reach- 
ing to be ignored. The withdrawal of the queen and 
her suite to the Little Trianon was the first great step 
in the return to a domestic ideal. The palace at Ver- 
sailles was a theatre and a showground during the 
reign of Louis XIV and Louis XV. In the Little 
Trianon refined and sane human beings might well 
live surrounded by those beautiful things which were 
in harmony with the house. The treatment of the 
walls and ceilings, not to mention the chimney pieces, 
eloquently confirms the truth of this statement. Few 
architects, interior decorators, or even artists recognize 
the importance of the treatment of walls and ceilings, 
not to mention chimney pieces. 

A great change was made in the restoration of the 
room, its walls, floor and ceiling, to the background 
idea. No one can see the intimate rooms of Marie 
Antoinette without feeling keenly the struggle that 
must have ensued before the beautifully spaced, finely 
panelled and sensibly decorated walls could have sup- 
planted the gorgeous ponderous collection of trash of 
which the palace at Versailles is a constant reminder. 

Furniture in this period, when the wall was established 


as a background, returned to rectangular or partially 
rectangular structure; the supports were vertical, the 
cabriole leg disappeared, the contour was curved and 
straight, or sometimes well spaced straight, the propor- 
tions dignified though tiny, consistent, though at times 
a little dramatic. As to the number and importance of 
articles, there was no great change from the previous 
period. They were also produced in natural wood, col- 
oured and enamelled, with enamel, perhaps, in the as- 
cendancy. One can less easily conceive this style in 
natural wood, yet a room in which all enamelled furni- 
ture is used is often tiresome and uninteresting, and the 
discreet use in this period of walnut, enamel and colour, 
in the same room was too exquisite to be passed with- 
out comment. To know when and how much of each 
of these to use is to be conscious of the two influences of 
the period, and also to understand artistic requirement 
in composition where variety is to be considered. 

The ornament was classic, strongly so, in that it was 
applied structurally, and many of the classic motifs 
retained their original fine proportions. The whole 
treatment, however, was in a scale so entirely foreign to 
the original classic idea that one can scarcely make a 
comparison. The lighter side of the influence expressed 
itself in garlands of flowers, delightful little cherubs, 
love birds, bow and arrows, love knots and the like, 
all of which, expressing the clean, human, childish qual- 
ities of the queen, constituted the ruling idea. 

To grasp in its entirety the wonderful change, one 
needs to study comparatively the painted surfaces of 
this and the last period, the treatment of flowers, gar- 
lands, cherubs, human figures, etc., and judge for him- 



self the qualities of mind which brought out each of the 
two types of feeling and expression in these artistic 
fields. Verily, classic domination and a clean idea has 
wrought wonders! 

Textiles presented a wide field of expression. Motifs 
were smaller, colours less mixed; floral patterns became 
bisymmetric, as in fact did most other ornament. Things 
seemed to right themselves by the law of gravitation 
and to assume at least a miniature appearance of dig- 
nity. While inconsistencies existed at times between 
the scale of ornament in textiles and the furniture with 
which it was used, there was plenty of room in this 
period for selection of things in perfect harmony in 
motif, in scale, in material and in colour. This selective 
quality in combination, as has been so often said, is the 
key to the true expression of the period of Louis XVI. 
If there is an excess in this period, it is found oftenest 
in the use of decorative ornamental bric-a-brac. Un- 
doubtedly much of this could have been dispensed with, 
but the wonder is that so much was left out and not that 
more might have been. If we can eliminate in the same 
ratio unnecessary and inappropriate things, to-day our 
houses may become not only modest, but expressive of 
a taste scarcely equalled in any age. 

To summarize : the period of Louis XVI is the restora- 
tion of sanity in French expression. It is the redomina- 
tion of the classic ideal. This ideal is expressed, to be 
sure, in a somewhat dramatic, childish, miniature pic- 
ture form, but the element is there nevertheless. It 
marks the beginning of an understanding of the relation 
between the walls, ceiling and floor and the furnishings 
of a house, and also of the relation between a house and 


the individuality of the one who must live in it and whose 
personality is to be expressed by it. Its adaptation to 
modern usage is too apparent to need further remark. 

It is not essential to speak just now in detail of the 
periods of the Directory, the Restoration, the Consti- 
tution, nor the Empire. The Empire is the most inter- 
esting and far reaching in its influence of these, but for 
our purposes in treating the French styles, its elements 
are non-essential. It has been the aim in treating of 
these styles in a limited manner to select causes, examine 
their effects, define their qualities, and indicate their 
forces for use in modern life. 




AS it was in France so was it in England. The Ren- 
aissance was an affected style. This was also true of 
the Gothic in England, although the Gothic was indige- 
nous to France. The Renaissance was a natural out- 
come of geographical position and of social evolution in 
Italy. The English adopted the Renaissance as a new 
and interesting means of expressing national ideas. 
They adopted the forms rather than the ideas for which 
they stood, and, as is always the case, these forms were 
at first copied, and later modified, into what may be 
styled the English expression of Italian ideas. The 
development of these forms in England, however, was 
considerable, although neither so complete nor so dis- 
tinctive as those in France under the inspiration of 
Francis I. 

In order to make a simple comparison between these 
two national types that we may the more clearly under- 
stand the fundamental qualities of the English form, it 
is well to consider first some of the elements concerned 
in their development. 

In the first place, the life of the people of any country 
is the greatest factor in the evolution of its art. It is 
their daily activities that determine the needs of the 
time, and these needs are satisfied by the normal pro- 


duction of such objects as are essential. These objects 
accordingly represent the art of the nation. 

Up to the last quarter of the fifteenth century the 
English people may be said to have developed rugged, 
solid, individual but primitive expressions of their 
social ideal. This is partly due to the geographical 
isolation of Great Britain. By its position it is cut off 
from other types of life with which it might have, under 
different circumstances, commingled. It is also due, in 
part, to the fact that the national mind had given its 
attention to political rather than social development. 
But, most of all, it may be attributed to the mixed 
qualities which we call the English temperament. Per- 
haps we can perceive something of this temperamental 
aggregate by noticing for a moment the strains of in- 
fluence which are fused together in the comprehensive 
term "the British nation." 

This people is Celtic in origin, and while perhaps little 
of the Celtic quality remains in England, much of the 
feeling is still present in the quality of the Irish mind, 
and no doubt hereditary strains are clearly traceable 
to this origin even in the English. Before the beginning 
of the Christian era the Romans had invaded the British 
Islands. By the beginning of the fourth century Eng- 
land was practically under their domination, and to 
this day appear inerasable marks of the power of that 
mighty nation. 

The early Britons mingled with and absorbed many 
of the Roman traditions, particularly in political and 
social life, which remain as mountain-top traits in Eng- 
lish modern life. In the first place, English law is based 
somewhat upon Roman law. Much of jurisprudence, 



political organization, and desire for territorial expan- 
sion, as well as substantial, formal, warlike measures, 
are of Roman origin. These elemental factors have pro- 
duced qualities of solidity, strength, formality, conserv- 
atism and fearlessness, which are fundamentals in the 
English character and are clearly discernible in their art. 

Before the eighth century Roman power had grad- 
ually declined, and the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons 
with their traditions of somewhat barbaric domesticity 
brought into the language, social forms and domestic 
relationships, the Teutonic qualities which are percepti- 
ble in the domestic ideals of English life. The amalga- 
mation of the Anglo-Saxons and the added domestic 
ideas of the Danes furnished a remarkable complement 
to the formal imperialism of the Roman time. 

The tendency toward democratic equality, the in- 
clination for comfort and moderation, and the distinctly 
non-monarchic viewpoint of these Anglo-Saxon invaders 
were also strong factors in the rapid development of the 
home idea in England after the beginning of the eighth 
century. But this was interrupted and greatly modi- 
fied by the invasion of the Norman French under Wil- 
liam the Conqueror about the middle of the eleventh 
century. Very different was this ideal from the crude 
democratic social ideal of the two previous centuries. 
With William the Conqueror came the feudal system, 
with all its military power, caste system and monarchic 
principles. He laid the foundation for the absolute 
monarchy which reached its height under Henry VIII at 
the beginning of the sixteenth century. 

Brief mention of these different races has been made 
here to stimulate an inquiry regarding the different 


phases of the English periods in order that it may be 
kept in mind that the British people are the most mixed, 
comprehensive and varied in experience of all nations. 
In consequence of this complexity, they have perhaps 
more ideas to express and less definitely formulated 
traditions in one style of expression. Their ideas have 
been less thoroughly worked out than those of nations 
which have had one ideal from time immemorial, and 
have expressed it in traditional forms that grew more 
and more insistent until the climax was reached, when 
decadence set in and resulted in the destruction of the 
original idea. 

The second factor which has influenced in a large de- 
gree English art expression is their peculiar political 
viewpoint. In no country has there been so decided a 
conflict between supreme monarchic power and demo- 
cratic ideals as in the national history of this remarkable 
people. One has only to remember the Magna Charta 
and the steps which led to it, all that followed its ac- 
ceptance, the climax of absolutism under Henry VIII, 
the peculiar strategic ideal of Elizabeth, the ups and 
downs of the Stuart dynasty, the peculiar outcome of 
the Dutch regime under William and Mary, the vicissi- 
tudes of the Georges, and the remarkable constitutional 
monarchy under Victoria, to see how difficult it is to 
consider the English periods as expressing monarchic 
ideas alone. In France the period of Francis I or 
Louis XIV or Louis XV was dominated supremely by 
the monarch and his associates. The corresponding 
English periods, while somewhat under the direction of 
the monarch, owed their origin to national ideas rather 
than to monarchic whims. 



The third factor which has played no small part in 
the development of the people is their attitude to the 
Christian religion, which was generally embraced by 
the beginning of the fifteenth century. The English 
Church, though Roman in its origin, was always less 
clearly identified with the general movement than 
were those of the continent. By the last days of the 
fifteenth century, when Henry VII had completed 
the chapel in Westminster Abbey, the Gothic influence 
had spent its force, and already the secular in life was 
making itself felt. This period in England corresponds 
to that of Louis XII in France. The English up to 
this time had less contact with Italy and other con- 
tinental countries than had France, and had developed 
a very crude type of interior architecture and domestic 
furnishing. The houses were mostly made of wood 
and during the reign of Henry VII became picturesque 
to a degree. 

While we must ignore architecture in its exterior 
forms in this book, a general feeling for the "English- 
man's home as his castle" will be found in the middle 
and upper class house of the period just named. The 
furnishings, it is true, were crude and consisted mainly 
of a Gothic chest, a roughly finished oak table, a pos- 
sible bread and cheese cupboard and primitive benches. 
Unlike those of the same period in France, they were 
lacking in structural niceties and subtle decorative 
Gothic ornament. 

The home idea, however, was innate and the head 
of the family supreme, while the individual rights of 
the family were jealously maintained. The days of 
Henry VIII and the establishment of the English 


Church in its present form, with the king as the hered- 
itary head, the constant conflict between the mother 
church and the reformed faith, the dissensions and sep- 
arations consequent upon this conflict, are too well 
known to require more than a passing word. The type 
of religion or religious form which prevailed influenced 
greatly the art of the time and, sometimes, dominated its 

With these four great influences in mind, and with 
a mental picture of the English people, one is fitted, 
with the aid of imagination, to understand the meaning 
of the Renaissance in England. 

The art periods may be summarized as follows : 

The Tudor period from about 1500 to 1603. 

The Stuart period from 1603 to 1688. 

The Dutch influence from 1688 to 1750. 

The Individual period from 1750 to 1837. 

The Victorian period from 1837 to 1900. 

The New Renaissance from 1900 to the present day. 

For our purposes the Tudor period may be divided 
into two parts that of Henry VIII, who came to the 
throne in 1509 and died in 1547, and that of Elizabeth, 
extending from the time she came to the throne in 
1558 to her death in 1603. 

The reigns of Mary Tudor and Edward VI made 
little impress on the period and need not be mentioned 
here. Sometimes writers have classed this entire 
period as Elizabethan, and have spoken of the Tudor 
as the period including the reigns of Henry VII and 
VIII. It seems to me, however, that a clearer idea may 
be obtained by looking at the Tudor period as the ex- 
pression of two distinct types of ideas. 



The reign of Henry VIII is characterized by some 
remarkable changes. The climax of absolute rule 
enabled the king and his ministers to dominate in a 
large measure the public mind, while the religious 
attitude of the country was so modified that the favour- 
ite of the king (his wife for the time being) had a great 
deal of influence on the development of the style. This 
new attitude in English court life to the domestic idea 
had a general bearing on the rapidity with which the 
style was evolved. 

We must not spend time in discussing the phe- 
nomenal evolution of the English house, though a fa- 
miliarity with its history will add greatly to one's 
appreciation of its furnishings and fittings. 

With the establishment of the new English church 
form and with the domestic ideal determined by the 
king and his court, some fitting expression of these 
ideas would naturally be sought. Their attention was 
first turned to Italy. Italian furniture, textiles, orna- 
ment and even the artists themselves were brought 
into England. These arrivals increased with the 
ascendancy of Anne Boleyn, and continued after she 
gave place to others. The style then prevailing may 
be said to be a modification of the Italian Renaissance 
without a proper conception of the interior as a setting 
for the requisite furnishings. 

While Henry VIII and his reign are responsible for 
the Elizabethan period, its maturity is found in the 
days of Elizabeth herself, and for that reason we deal 
with the Elizabethan period as the culminating 
expression of what is known as the old English 



In the reign of Elizabeth interiors reached the stage 
of development in which the pointed Gothic hammer- 
beam roof with its modifications had given place to a 
flat modified Renaissance ceiling. The walls during 
this period were panelled in three or four distinct 
types of oak panelling, each an evolution from the 
other, each gradually dropping its carved Renaissance 
motifs and becoming flatter with fewer and less ornate 
mouldings. These old English panelled walls are 
radiantly expressive of the dignity and sober earnestness 
of the period itself. Some are beautifully arranged 
with pilasters whose faces are carved in Renaissance 
motifs. The cornices are equally beautiful, and ceilings 
are modifications of the Italian idea, generally in a 
remarkably sustained way. The chimney pieces are 
often large, elaborately carved and chiselled, running 
sometimes to the ceiling itself, and heavy with Renais- 
sance ornament and other motifs. 

The furniture is chiefly oak and is distinguished 
by its heavy scale, the beautiful soft tones of the wood, 
and by the awkward proportions of the structural 
features, particularly during the middle of this period. 
Perhaps the most distinguishing quality is the series 
of huge bulges in the legs of tables and in bed posts, and 
the ugly proportion of the Ionic capital as it was used 
with these bulges in the supports of tables, beds and on 
cabinets. The surfaces of these supports are a mass 
of carving, crudely wrought and often badly propor- 
tioned, but rich in general effect. They bespeak a 
desire to accomplish in English scale and feeling the 
same result that Francis I developed in working out 
the idea in the supports of the furniture in the period 



which he dominated. The difference in effect, how- 
ever, is remarkable. 

Articles of furniture were few in number even in the 
days of Elizabeth. Those most commonly found were 
the bread and cheese cupboard, which served for almost 
anything that was to be put out of sight, the huge oak 
table with its ponderous top and often badly propor- 
tioned legs, the crude bench which took the place of 
chairs at the table, the bed, wood canopied with huge 
bulbous posts, the wainscot chair, wood throughout, 
almost grotesque in its form and ornament, and various 
chests which naturally followed the Gothic chest of 
the period preceding. 

Panelled walls at first were covered with huge tapes- 
tries, and the floor with rushes or a kind of straw to 
soften sound and make the room more comfortable. A 
little later, through the influence of the wonderful 
Holbein, portraits were developed which, in spirit and 
technique as well as in size and form, found a proper 
place over the chimney pieces and on the walls of these 
heavily panelled oak rooms to which they lent a needed 

In the early forms of the banquet hall with its Gothic 
vaulted ceiling, its huge tapestried walls, its floors 
strewn with rushes upon which the hunting dogs lay at 
the feet of their masters, heads of deer and other animals 
found a fairly suitable place upon the walls as they were 
hung amid the helmets, armour and hunting imple- 
ments of the masters of the house. Picture, for a 
moment, this banquet hall and the zoological orna- 
ments which seem a natural part of it, and then con- 
sider the inappropriateness of transferring this armour, 


these implements, and these deer heads to a modern, six- 
teen-by-eighteen Chippendale-furnished dining-room. 
Is it any wonder that there is need for the study of 
period art to see where the mistreatment of the tradi- 
tions of bygone ages has brought us? 

The textiles of this period are dark, rich tapestries, 
velvets and damasks. Rich indeed were they in the 
days of Henry VIII, while they were dark and formal 
in the days of Elizabeth. The remarkable harmony of 
the value relation between these and their surroundings 
explains the sombre impressiveness of the period known 
as the Elizabethan. 

The application of the Elizabethan style may be 
suggested here. Its scale is magnificent and it lends 
itself naturally to exploitation in expensive country 
houses, and is also of use in working out a scheme for 
a man's room or for cafes in large hotels. It has un- 
limited possibilities for adaptation in the interior dec- 
oration and furnishing of theatres. American theatres 
have been largely a barbaric American expression of 
mixed French styles which mean nothing but glamour 
and ostentation and which serve no good purpose, since 
the auditorium of a theatre should be a background, 
keeping its place as such and giving the stage and the 
actors on it a chance for at least a part of the public 

This Elizabethan period with its panellings, its dark, 
rich colours, its soft and neutral combinations, its heavy 
and dignified scale, should appeal more strongly than 
any other to people of good taste as an expression of the 
function of a theatre auditorium in which the size will 
permit the English scale. 




THE Tudor period may justly be said to stand for 
the Renaissance in England, for the Stuart period 
(1603 to 1689) is the most distinctly national of any 
of the English periods. By the end of the Elizabethan 
period the Italian Renaissance influence had almost 
entirely disappeared. Such ideas and their forms as 
were still in use gave way rapidly under the new regime. 

This period is sometimes styled the Jacobean, but 
the term is so broad because of the dissimilarity of the 
different parts in the period itself that it is unwise to 
think of it as describing any one particular phase of the 
three parts into which the period naturally divides 
itself. The reigns of James I and Charles I mark the 
first epoch, the Commonwealth the second, and the 
reigns of Charles II and James II the third. The 
names of these rulers are synonymous with certain 
ideals which are really the governing principles in the 
lives and activities of the time. 

The sturdy, sordid James I brought from Scot- 
land those monarchic and religious differences which 
opened the way for the Puritan development and the 
resultant Puritan expression. Instead of pageant, 
glamour, show, display and noise, the period became 


the expression of moderation, reserve, economic con- 
servation and personal mortification. There was no 
longer a tendency to use more wood, more colour or 
more metal than were essential to express an idea. 
Both James I and Cromwell had other ways to spend 
the money at their command. 

The people, particularly the Separatists, taught 
and practised the strictest self-restraint and decried 
loudly all symbolic, religious or social expression which 
in any way might lend colour to the so-called idolatrous 
practices of the time. Personal discomfort, a revolt 
against sensual beauty as sinful, and a crusade against 
unnecessary expenditure of money for personal grati- 
fication became the leading ideas of the time. 

These tendencies culminated in the commonwealth, 
when all kinds of domestic objects became scant in 
their material and particularly uncomfortable in their 
construction. They were sparsely ornamented with 
the crudest kind of flat-faced carving and were, withal, 
calculated to satisfy only the absolute needs of man, 
disregarding entirely the aesthetic sense as well as bodily 

This period, marking the first and second expressions 
of the Jacobean style, furnished the foundation for the 
earliest Colonial forms in the United States. The 
people who fled to Holland and thence to Massachusetts 
retained the characteristics of the English of that time, 
as did also those who settled Jamestown and founded 
the Southern colonies during the seventeenth century. 
New England, more than any other part of the United 
States, expressed for years the frugal conservatism 
which so manifestly dominated the Jacobean period. 



The rapid growth of the Separatist party brought 
to England many Flemish workers who were also 
Protestants in their religious views. These brought 
with them two structural ideas which were adopted, 
perhaps in part because they were economical and also 
because they were new. The first of these is twisted 
Wood, which is the dominating characteristic of chair 
and table supports during the period of Charles I and 
Cromwell. This appeared also in the days of James 
I, and was found in frequent use until the advent of 
William and Mary, but during the days of Charles and 
Cromwell it dominated all other styles of furniture 
support. The other element is known as the Flemish 
scroll. This scroll, which is the same that was intro- 
duced into France and used so much in the days of 
Henry IV, Louis XIII and Louis XIV, was in reality 
an Italian device which the Flemish had seized and 
adopted as a national form. 

The Italian pieces, too, which came to England 
in the last days of the Elizabethan period no doubt 
influenced somewhat the adoption of this scroll idea. 
The period is characterized by the use and abuse of the 
scroll in the backs of chairs, their unders trapping, the 
arms and in other parts of furniture. Sometimes these 
are restrained, well carried out and structurally more 
or less appropriate. At other times they are wild in 
their choice and arrangement, heavy, badly spaced 
and ungainly, as well as inartistic in their proportions 
and in relationship to the article in which they are 
found. The chairs of the early period are high backed, 
very straight, with a small wooden seat, and are uncom- 
fortable withal. During the reign of James they were 


Upholstered in leather, later in velvet and, occasion- 
ally, in tapestry. During the reign of Charles they 
became low in back, rather cubical in shape and broad 
in seat. The seat and arms were upholstered in velvet 
and even damask, as the tendency to a luxurious court 
life made itself felt in opposition to the strictly econom- 
ical ideas of the religious party. 

The rule of Cromwell, however, produced a reaction, 
and a strict return to wood for discomfort's sake was 
the law of the day. Chests were legion. These were 
of oak, often entirely covered in a flat-faced carving 
with leafage and modified Renaissance forms. They 
were crude, stiff and ugly, but interesting and some- 
what attractive as expressing permanence and a primi- 
tive quality as untouched by the Renaissance idea and 
uncontaminated by French influence. 

This period had a distinct individuality up to the 
time of the accession of Charles II. Except for the 
Flemish influence it may be said to be strictly the ex- 
pression of the middle-class English home. So possible 
is it of reproduction that all sorts of modifications are 
already in use in this country and the department 
stores are alive with Jacobean furniture, even to Jaco- 
bean rocking chairs, which, by the way, are the last 
article of human use that should be made in Jacobean 
form. Gate-legged tables are popular and seem to ex- 
press the same qualities as those described in chairs 
and other articles of furniture. 

The interior was, during this period, still oak panelled, 
though elaborate mouldings and Renaissance carvings 
were entirely out of place. Beamed ceilings not only 
made their appearance, but were the dominating fea- 



ture of the Jacobean room as turned and twisted wood 
was of the furniture in it. The wood was mostly oak, 
dark and rich in colour. The textiles which were used, 
and those which ought to be, represented two types. 
Suffice it to say that the printed linens of the time, 
which were strongly contrasting in value, huge in pat- 
tern and scale, and scrawly in motion, though in some 
instances entirely out of feeling with the period, are the 
most characteristic of any textile. Velvets seemed too 
rich, except for the period of Charles II, leather too 
brutal and damasks out of the question. If either of 
the latter are used in an adaptation of this style, they 
should have inconspicuous patterns in rather small scale 
with fairly close values and a dull, unobtrusive finish. 

The last part of this period, beginning with the 
reign of Charles II is, strictly speaking, though Jaco- 
bean, not an English art period. The sympathies of 
the monarch were French. He was French in ideal 
and practice as much as it was possible to be and main- 
tain an apparent ascendancy over the English people. 
He adopted French manners and customs and was 
often in France, or had his workmen there, copying 
and adapting the ideas of Louis XIV. In a word, the 
period of Charles II may be said to be the Jacobean 
fused with the Louis XIV in a scale and colour combina- 
tion and an ornament display that accorded with the 
intelligence and the practices of Charles II. The 
student of periods will find keen enjoyment in the his- 
tory of Charles II and the development of interior art 
which was the expression of the demand of the day. 

To see the Jacobean period as a whole or as the ex- 
pression of one idea is quite impossible. It must be 


considered as three distinct periods, with at least two 
distinct ideas one the domination of all those qualities 
which are summed up in the word Puritan; the other, 
the readaptation of the qualities of Puritanism to a 
profligate court life with a Louis XIV period as the 
well-spring from which to draw material for this ex- 

The period of James II does not count, and the 
domination of the ideas of Charles ends in the abdica- 
tion of James II and the recall of Mary from the Nether- 
lands with William, who was by birth and inheritance 
a democratic Dutch ruler and not an English king. 

To attempt to show the Palladian influence on Eng- 
land or the wonderful effects brought about by Inigo 
Jones would be the work of a volume. The omission 
is perhaps excusable since our aim is only to sense, if 
possible, the spirit of the time to such a degree that 
the use of objects will not be entirely the result of ig- 
norant choice. 




AS one reviews the successive changes that have 
taken place in the art of furnishing in the English 
styles, it will generally be found that under normal 
conditions the evolution from one style to another 
has been gradual. The characteristics and distinguish- 
ing features of the old forms became weaker, and those 
of the new style grew stronger by degrees until the first 
were lost in, or supplanted by, the last. 

This accounts in many periods for the mixed objects 
called transition pieces which are so troublesome to 
the student of period styles. To make these freak 
pieces special objects of study is detrimental to a gen- 
eral understanding of those qualities which make for 
distinctive period limitations. It is advisable, there- 
fore, to consider first always types of periods at the full 
flower of their expression rather than in the forms of 
the pieces just described. In no phase of applied art is 
this transition more clearly distinguishable than in the 
styles in furniture. 

The English periods are less distinctly traceable, 
one to the other, than those of any other country. This 
is due to the fact that British conservatism adopted 
ideas less easily, assimilated them more slowly, and 


more naturally evolved its own expressions as different 
ideas dominated the period. 

The Elizabethan and Stuart periods differed radi- 
cally in the idea which they expressed, but in some 
ways the characteristics were identical. For example, 
the furniture was principally oak, carved when orna- 
mented at all, rectangular in structure, uncomfortable 
and architecturally structural in its detail. The 
change that came about with the advent of the present 
style was not overwhelmingly sudden, but it was sure. 
Before considering these radical changes we will look 
for a moment to the causes which brought about this 
revolution in the household idea. 

It will be remembered that in 1688 James II aban- 
doned the English throne for a more congenial life in 
France, and that his prerogative as king was assumed 
by one William the Stadtholder, whose reasons for 
succession were that he was a grandson of Charles I 
and also a son-in-law of James II, whose daughter, 
Mary, he had married. This man William, although 
the ruler of the democratic Netherlands, is said to have 
been a man who never knew when he was beaten, and 
he came to England with the avowed intention of 
becoming an absolute dictator, notwithstanding the 
fact that his queen had the stronger claim to supreme 

Life in the Netherlands at that time was pronouncedly 
domestic. The ideals and practices of the country 
differed so decidedly from those of England that the 
needs of the people had produced a domestic type of 
furnishing not concerned with court ceremonial, but 
suitable for middle-class life and ordinary household 



use. Dutch forms and Dutch treatment were more 
democratic and more varied than those found during 
the Tudor or the Stuart dynasties in England. With 
the coming of William and Mary came shiploads of 
Dutch furniture and furnishings, as well as hordes of 
Dutch court officials, artists and craftsmen. This Dutch 
invasion is the reason for the rapidly changing forms 
of this period style. 

To be sure, not all the people of England accepted 
Dutch social standards, but gradually people of influ- 
ence did so, and the rigid adherence of the court to the 
methods of the mother country finally resulted in 
placing the stamp of Dutch influence upon all things 
made. It followed that the period forms of the era 
which had passed were almost eradicated. 

Religious toleration had become a sufficiently fixed 
policy to make the church of practically no moment in 
determining the style. 

This period, then, is the Dutch Domestic period 
filtered through English experience, and results in 
what is known as the Queen Anne period; though, in 
fact, Queen Anne herself had no more to do with the 
period than did the king of the Congo tribes, except 
that her tendencies as a gardener and seamstress influ- 
enced somewhat the naturalistic motifs, particularly 
in printed linens and embroidered tapestries. The 
great vogue of these tapestries was the natural out- 
growth of her attitude and that of the ladies of the 
court to needlework. 

As has been said, the change in period forms was 
almost revolutionary. We must remember that up 
to this time rectangular forms and straight-lined con- 


struction dominated the manufacture of English furni- 
ture. Flemish scrolls or curved forms were not used 
in construction in the Elizabethan period and only in a 
limited way in the Jacobean period. An occasional 
chair arm or back might suggest the curved line, but 
even this was dominated by straight ones. An im- 
portant fact is that tables and chair legs were generally 
square or turned or twisted wood, generally straight. 
They were guilty of no shaping except in rare instances. 
The pediment and other classic structural motifs were 

In short, curved-line construction appeared to be 
studiously avoided. How remarkable a change oc- 
curred in this respect with the advent of the Dutch 
influence! Formal, unrelenting sternness gave way 
before a more graceful shaping, as curves became the 
fashion. In Elizabethan days a chair could not be 
made comfortable no matter how much it was uphol- 
stered or cushioned, but in this new type the chair 
began to assume the lines which the human form de- 
mands for its comfort. 

This idea alone is sufficient to mark a step forward 
in the development of furniture, though this develop- 
ment reached its culmination later. The proportions 
and quantities of material were lighter in the structure 
of the William and Mary period, but with Queen Anne 
the strength, size and scale increased again. In 1720 
mahogany was introduced into England, and from then 
on it rapidly grew in favour until it well-nigh dominated 
the English expression and found its natural echo in 
our Colonial styles which have been so much admired 
and in some cases overrated. 



When these details are compared with the cold, 
formal and primitive expressions of the Jacobean, with 
the flagrantly vulgar types sometimes seen in the period 
of Louis XIV or the Decadent products of the late 
Italian Renaissance, the Queen Anne forms give us a 
sense of relief, and the Colonial seems a step into the 
light. But, when considered from the standpoint of 
artistic and significant form based on subtlety in pro- 
portion, scale and treatment, not all Colonial pieces 
are as beautiful as they are sometimes believed to be. 

The early part of the period marked the evolution 
out of the Jacobean type. Its products are distin- 
guished by a lighter, more aspiring quality, a grace and 
charm acquired through the use of cane in seats and 
backs of chairs, a freer interpretation of the Flemish 
scroll, a gradual shaping of the objects to the human 
figure and to their particular requirements. The 
wood was generally oak, birch or walnut, but when 
mahogany was introduced it rapidly took the place 
of all other woods, and by the end of the Queen Anne 
period almost held the field alone. The tremendous 
difference between the carved and turned treatment 
of the earlier types and the perfectly plain, flat, smooth 
surface of the mahogany period marks a variation 
worthy of notice. 

The most radical change in structure is found in the 
national adoption of the cabriole leg and the curve 
of its construction as represented in the contour of 
various articles of furniture of the period. The cab- 
riole leg, imported from the Netherlands, earlier 
from France, and still earlier from Italy, is the dis- 
tinguishing characteristic not only of the Queen Anne 


support, but it is also that of the early work of Chip- 

One gains perhaps as clear a conception of the differ- 
ence between the French and English feeling in their 
treatment of this element as in any other art form of 
historical significance. Compare the cabriole leg of the 
Queen Anne chair in scale, in sinuousness of curve, in 
beauty of proportion, in balance, with that of the ideal 
cabriole used in the period of Louis XV. The latter 
characterized by grace, subtlety of balance and sinuous- 
ness of direction expresses all the refinement and 
charm of the French idea. Often the former heavy 
and clumsy in scale, ugly in proportion, mechanical in 
curve, heavy, thick-set and ordinary gives a pretty 
sure key to a Queen Anne-Dutch-English feeling done 
in mahogany. 

It is not intended to brand all Queen Anne furniture 
as possessing these qualities and no others, but to 
make a general statement which is true under most 
circumstances. Much of the inordinate family worship 
of old mahogany would be wiped out in our time if the 
old pieces which have been passed down to us as prod- 
ucts of the Colonial period could be judged by the same 
standards by which we judge other things, and not by a 
standard in which sentimentality rules reason and inten- 

To this period belongs not only the credit of having 
begun to see furniture as related to persons and things, 
but to it also belongs the credit of originating a great 
number of new objects to meet the domestic needs of 
the time. These new iHeas found expression in inter- 
esting and useful tables of various sizes, secretaries 



and writing desks that were comfortable and possible; 
chairs, some to rest in, some in which to sit erect, others 
apparently for show. In short, the scope of furniture 
from the functional standpoint was greatly enlarged, 
particularly during the last half of the period under 

Perhaps in no article was a greater play of fancy 
shown than in miro^rs^. Mirrors in the Jacobean period 
were non-essentials. Personal appearance during the 
first half of that period was not a matter for serious 
consideration. The period of Queen Anne seems to 
have found the same satisfaction in its grotesque mirror 
frames that it found in many of its grotesque textile 
motifs. Sometimes these mirrors were fairly plain 
excepting at the top, where a huge broken gable or a 
jig-sawed appearance was found quite ugly in its 
effect and unimportant in its function. I have no 
doubt that admiration for these ill-designed and too 
ornate mirror frames has been instrumental in clouding 
the vision as to what a picture frame really is for and 
as to which is the important thing the frame or the 
picture. From both these standpoints the too elabo- 
rate working out of the mirror was a hindrance to the 
best understanding of an art expression when applied 
to these forms or related ones. 

As has been intimated, printed linens and needle- 
work tapestries were the vogue of the day. Attention 
was turned no doubt to the French salon with its 
poetry, music and social chat. The salon of Queen 
Anne was a sewing bee of tapestry needlework. An 
extraordinary amount of rather pleasing patterns in 
fairly well-related colours was developed, but a much 


larger amount was not only bad in colour and design, 
but impossible of use with objects refined in themselves. 
This mania for needlework embroidery spread to the 
States, and our Colonial handbags, bookmarks, etc., 
are but the fruits of the reign of Queen Anne. And 
the " God Bless Our Homes" and "What Is Home With- 
out a Mother" of the Victorian era were the last gasp 
of the same idea. 

A word might be said in this connection about the 
room as a background for all these things. The work 
of Sir Christopher Wren is too well known in archi- 
tecture to need comment. His influence was at its 
height. Fjirniture.- had accepted the pediment, the 
broken gable, and other architectural elements, not only 
as essentials, but as ornaments in cabinet making and 
furniture decoration. The Anglo -classic-Renaissance 
oak panelling of the Elizabethan period and the flat, 
almost hungry looking, adaptation of it in the Jacobean 
period were far too sombre and plain to harmonize 
with the new idea. 

Under William and Mary the rooms were done in \ 
large wooden panels representing in their form and 
arrangement something of the periods of contemporary / 
French styles. Windows, chimney pieces, doors, etc., / 
were heavily capped with pediments, broken gables 
and other motifs of the classic adaptation. In the 
latter half of the period even these wood panels gave 
place in some instances to plaster panelled in the same 
way and retaining the caps and trappings of the Wren / 
Renaissance style. 

In a word, then, the background idea of the room 
had changed. It had taken a long step toward the 



realization of the background for furniture, although a 
heaviness caused by an unpleasant scale relation is 
very apparent in the interior architectural features where 
the wall is anything but flat. Furniture was adapted 
to man and his uses. Decoration was confused with 
ornamentation, and where ornament was used it en- 
riched but it rarely beautified. 

Through the introduction and treatment of mahogany 
it had been made clear that it was possible to have furni- 
ture without carving or even marquetry, and a new 
note was struck in the function and in the decora- 
tive treatment of wood in cabinetmaking. Domestic 
I ideals were triumphing over political authority and 
religious ecstasy in the field of art creation. 

Too much cannot be said of the importance of this 
period in striking these new notes in the evolution of 
the domestic idea as it has been worked out in England 
and the United States. If one can see the Queen Anne 
period as responsible for these steps ahead, and at the 
same time realize that in doing this it lacks the aesthetic 
merit, the grace and charm, the almost supernatural 
beauty which the French and Italian periods have ex- 
pressed, then he is able to give to the period of Queen 
Anne its just due. He is able to accept what it has 
done that is good, and to look to other periods for those 
essential qualities which were apparently overlooked in 
working for the domestic ends which it so splendidly 




AT no place in the development of the English people 
is the democratic idea for which the Magna Charta 
stood more clearly demonstrated than in the furniture 
and furnishing ideas of the period known as the Geor-^ 
gian. The Queen Anne style lasted through the reign 
of George I and nearly through that of George II. At ' 
this time the Louis XV period was at its best in France. 
A more or less close intimacy between France and 
England had brought many English people of the upper 
classes into contact with the French salon. The gor- 
geous period of Louis XIV had been admired and copied 
in a limited way by some of the English cabinet makers, 
and many of them had studied at close range both the 
Louis XIV and Louis XV styles. 

The domestic tendencies of the court of Queen Anne 
had established a prototype in England of the French 
salon. It was the custom of court ladies and others 
to meet together for embroidery and conversation, 
though their topics were, perhaps, less weighty or 
witty than those discussed in the French salon. The 
democratic sentiment in religion and in social practice 
had so permeated the core of English life that an ex- 



odus to Holland and to the united colonies had been 
going on for over a century. 

Liberty of thought in this country and in England 
had a wonderful effect upon the demands, and therefore 
upon the creations, in the applied art field of the Eng- 
lish people. As men began to think for themselves 
they began to do for themselves. They were no longer 
willing to allow the royal will to decide the shape of a 
chair or how many a man should have and how he 
should use them after he owned them. Each man 
J conceived, by an apparently simultaneous impulse, the 
idea that the house was the expression of the individual 
who lived in it and that each person had not only the 
right to a special design, but was in duty bound to 
attempt to have something made which expressed his 
peculiar idea of what that object should be. 

One of the first persons to sense this situation and 
act upon it was one Thomas^ Chippendale by name, 
whose influence between 1750 and 18(HT can scarcely 
be estimated. So important has he become in the study 
of late English furniture that many believe everything 
that was designed between these dates was done by 
Chippendale or under his direction. Not only is this 
true, but one frequently meets people who confuse the 
Colonial types of the time with the Chippendale style, 
and not a few persist in confusing Hepplewhite, Shera- 
ton, Mayhew and others with Chippendale. 

Too much cannot be said in commendation of the 
4 great pioneer who defied tradition, took away from 
royalty and the court the right to dictate styles, and 
freed man to express himself in any way he saw fit, 
Yet to give him all the glory, or to ascribe to him all 


the niceties which were brought out as a result of his 
conception, is to overrate what he did and to under- 
rate the influence and work of other men as worthy 
of consideration as he. 

Of the early life of this man little is known. In 
1754 he brought out a book called "The Gentleman's 
and Cabinet Maker's Director." This book has been 
considered a well-spring for all Georgian styles, but its 
value lies in the clear way in which it shows the right 
of the individual to dictate his own style. 

Chippendale studied and observed the French styles. 
So taken was he with certain phases of these styles 
that one part of his work may be said to be an adapta- 
tion of the French to individual needs. An interest- 
ing story is told of what he did. Conceiving the idea 
that in place of the French salon an English tea shop 
and furniture shop could be combined, he established 
such an institution under his own roof. To this shop 
he invited not only his friends, but the wealthy people 
of London, as his guests for tea. While drinking tea, 
sitting upon a Chippendale model and viewing other 
examples of his work in the room, his guests proved an 
easy prey to his commercial scheme for showing furni- 
ture as it relates to the home. His success was pro- 
nounced and people flocked to the Chippendale shop 
to view, to purchase regardless of cost, and to order 
new articles of furniture which should be individual 
and made to express the personality of the owner. 

This indeed was a strange departure in cabinet - 
making. These French Chippendale pieces will not 
be described here, but they are the forerunners of the 
individual styles in England and in the United States. 



Sometimes Chippendale fell under other influences than 
those of France. He borrowed from the Gothic and 
attempted to create dining-room and drawing-room 
chairs with Gothic motifs, but these were in commercial 
early Georgian style. The result was inartistic and a 

Sir William Chambers had opened up the wealth 
of artistic material in China, and had brought back 
many examples of textiles, pottery, carved wood, etc., 
from the limitless supply of the Chinese Empire. Chip- 
pendale, shrewd as usual, fastened upon the Chinese 
lattice and other Chinese motifs, and used them with 
considerable facility in the expression of a new Chinese- 
Chippendale style. These are interesting, sometimes 
picturesque, frequently grotesque, while they present 
no end of chance for criticism as to their proportion and 

This is true especially of the chairs which he made. 
Mahogany was the wood of woods for Chippendale. 
His style, marking as it does the first of the individual 
styles, developed certain ideas which were originated 
during the Queen Anne period. He widened the seats 
of the chairs, accommodated the back more perfectly 
to the human figure and standardized the height of the 
seat from the floor. He also worked out more carefully 
the function of a sideboard, a bookcase, a secretary and 
a writing table. He sought by every known means to 
impress the idea of individualism upon his clients, and 
to furnish as many kinds and types of useful things as 
human ingenuity could devise. In all this he was emi- 
nently successful. 

The other element which all good furniture must 


have was frequently either missing or so slightly pres- 
ent that its detection is impossible. I refer to the 
quality of subtle refinement and sesthetically significant 
form. While some Chippendale pieces present a fine 
sense of proportion and a marvellous skill in technique, 
the general effect of the Chippendale furniture, with 
some exceptions, is heavy, frequently clumsy, lacking in 
grace, mixed in motif and altogether devoid of the 
charm of the later individual styles. 

To Chippendale, then, we accord the glory of being 
a pioneer in establishing individual style in furniture 
and furnishing. To him also may be given the praise 
that rightfully belongs to him who is not afraid to 
take an idea from any place or any time and attempt 
to carry it out under modern conditions. To give 
him, however, full credit for all things Georgian and 
all things Colonial, or to dub him a great artist crafts- 
man, is allowing him the qualities which properly be- 
long to the two men who were associated with him in his 
later years. 

The transition from the style called Chippendale to 
that of the style known . W^ppfcwhite, or to give the 
full title, of Messrs. A. Hepplewhite & Company, pre- 
sents one of the most difficult problems in the Georgian 
styles. Perhaps nowhere in the development of Eng- 
lish furniture was there a more marked change than in 
that made by these two men, who were practically 
contemporaneous. Notwithstanding the fact that 
Chippendale's furniture was lighter and more graceful, 
of a wider range and more usable than the earlier 
styles, he was unable to free himself from the weight 
of sturdy heaviness and formal arrangement which 



seems typical of the national temperament up to this 

Wealth, dignity and usefulness had been the vogue 
in the days of Queen Anne. A heavy ornamental dis- 
play of some graceful objects was the result of this 
period. Till the last days of Queen Anne everything 
light, flippant, or buoyant was rigidly excluded, and 
these qualities appeared only rarely in the work of 

The first real exponent of delicacy in English styles, 
of a subtle refinement in proportion and arrangement, 
was Hepplewhite, and to him this should be accredited. 
The home up to this time had a certain severity and 
heaviness in its treatment. The furniture consisted 
only of what was necessary to modern usage, but Hep- 
plewhite early in his career introduced a different idea 
and brought into English furniture and English furnish- 
ing an entirely new and very important element. 
Hepplewhite 's favourite maxim was "unite elegance 
with utility and blend the useful with the agreeable." 
This is the key to all that Hepplewhite did. 

We have seen that Chippendale perpetrated fearful 
atrocities and caricatures on the styles of Louis XIV 
and XV and of the Chinese and Gothic periods. These 
in no way expressed the idea for which they orig- 
inally stood. With Hepplewhite an entirely different 
view obtained. His wife published his book entitled 
"The Cabinet Maker's and Upholsterer's Guide, or 
Repository of Designs for Every Article of Household 
Furniture in the Newest and Most Approved Taste." 

From the title of this book may be gleaned something 
of what was the ideal of A. Hepplewhite & Company. 


With Chippendale it was utility and commercial ad-' 
vantage. With Hepplewhite it was the use to which 
an article must be put, united with the aesthetic quality 
which is the expression of perfect taste. 

Granting these premises, use and beauty, each 
equally important, you have the key to the great change 
which Hepplewhite wrought in the idea of individualiz- 
ing the house. His was the artistic and refining influ- 
ence which is the fruitful result of the union of the two 
necessary elements which make a useful object of any 
considerable art value, namely, the union of utility and 
elegance, or the fusion of function and beauty into one 
naturally expressive whole. 

To be sure, it is quite impossible for a man with such 
aims to realize in the fullest sense his ideal. Ham- 
pered by the work of inferiors, followers of Chippendale, 
limited by a smaller clientele at first among a people 
quite blinded by the new idea of individual styles, it 
took time and patience to work out in a positive way 
his own theories. The fruits of his work are seen in the 
greatly reduced scale of all articles which he designed. 
Perhaps some one will say these are too small, they 
look insecure, are not heavy enough for practical pur- 
poses. This may be true. In many instances it is 
true, but they are practical in expressing what they 
intended to express and are successful in uniting utility 
and beauty in the field in which they are usable at all. 
Not all Hepplewhite furniture is good in all places, but 
nearly all Hepplewhite furniture expresses the two ele- 
ments which all furniture should express. 

As has been said, it is not the aim of this discussion 
to illustrate the distinguishing characteristics of every 



style and period, but to awaken the reader to a 
sense of quality in things, and then to lead him to 
investigate the things or to read books in which these 
things are explained, and to find for himself the quali- 
ties for which they stand. That is the way to grow 
in knowledge of what is good and right, not only 
in furniture, but in any art object. 

J The period of Hepplewhite, or the work of Hepple- 
white as I shall call it, while contemporary with the 
last days of Chippendale, may be called a second step 
in the evolution of the individual style. Since he 
^ was the pioneer in standardizing beauty, refinement and 
charm, it marks quite as important an epoch as that 
in which Chippendale departed from the monarchic 

The furniture, the textiles, and other art objects 
were delicate and refined in scale. Side pieces were done 
in plain wood not much ornamented, chairs were delicate 
in line not greatly ornamented excepting in the backs, 
where Hepplewhite seems to have let his desire for free 
play of line run an absolute riot. 

The third very pronounced influence on this period 
is shown in the work of .^Sheraton^. who was born in 
1751, about the time that Chippendale published his 
famous book. Born of obscure parents, in dire poverty, 
gentle, retiring and contemplative, Sheraton was in 
direct contrast to the commercially social Chippendale 
and the polished gentleman Hepplewhite. Very early 
he showed an intense admiration for the most refined 
classic things in the period of Louis XVI. Chippendale, 
as has been said, took naturally to the period of Louis 
XIV and the heavier, more picturesque style of Louis 


XV. Hepplewhite saw, appreciated and developed the 
delicacies, subtleties and refinements of Louis XV. 

Temperance, restraint, simplicity and consistency c 
these were the things Sheraton saw in the foreign styles 
and these were the things he desired to express in his 
own work. Somewhat influenced, no doubt, by Hep- 
plewhite and his work, Sheraton set about to eliminate 
something of the overworked detail of the Hepplewhite 
idea, and to express in their simplest terms the same 
qualities and refinement with a more classic feeling 
as the dominating idea. 

Particularly in pieces such as cabinets, sideboards, 
dressers, tables, etc., Sheraton was supreme. Deli- 
cate, refilled __and splendidly constructed, they were 
decorated in perfect structural harmony by a fine 
and_beautif ul inlay of lighter wj>od. These pieces 
expressed in English terms the quiet, refined dignity 
that is found so characteristic of the plainest and most 
classic of the same objects in the period of Louis XVI. 
When these pieces or the counterparts of them found 
their way to the United States they did much to modify 
the belief already strongly entrenched here, that the 
heavier Queen Anne or the more elaborate Chippendale 
were the climaxes of beauty in furniture forms. 

The chairs of Sheraton appear to have been less 
in harmony with his idea than his other articles of 
furniture. Perhaps this is because chair backs seem 
to have been the playground for both Sheraton and 
Hepplewhite. Consistent to a degree in some things, 
they apparently considered the backs of chairs safe 
places in which to experiment with apparently impos- 
sible motifs worked out in incongruous ways. There 



are, however, some rectangular backs with simple feel- 
ing, beautiful in proportion and charming in spirit, 
as are also the side pieces to which they naturally 

The most casual study of these things will show that 
in all Sheraton did there was everything to praise and 
little to criticise unfavourably. Toward the end of his 
career, when a broken old man, worn out in mind and 
body, he published some designs which show that his 
original idea had become well-nigh lost in the trend of 
the times. They were caricatures of the Empire in 
France. Though very little made up as designs, they 
have misled many into believing Sheraton stood for 
ideas which really were strictly opposed to all that 
the man worked for during the best part of his life. 

Sheraton believed and proved that designing house- 
hold furnishing was an art, one which every one could 
not with success take up as a means of livelihood. He 
understood that a gift for proportion as well as special 
training was essential, and he stood firmly for good 
taste and sound workmanship. But even these did not 
satisfy him. He determined to master the art of 
drawing and the principles of design and colour; in 
short, to become acquainted with the laws which gov- 
erned the expression of his ideas, in material form. This 
he held to be essential. In this^, then, Sheraton added 
some new things to the already clearly defined tend- 
encies of the Georgian times. 

The discussion of individual styles may not be closed 
without a word in regard to the Adam brothers. The 
older of the two, Robert Adam, was born in 1^28, and 
in 1768 he was appointed architect to the king. He 


died in 1792. These dates are given that one may 
clearly associate the Adam brothers with the period 
when Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton were 
all at work in the cabinetmakers' field. 

In truth the Adam brothers were not cabinetmakers, 
but ajTJhitents, eyterior^Tulinterior. To us their 
chief value lies in what they did for inJerim^wjilLs, 
ceilings, floors and chimney pieces, which brought back 
the interior of the room to the background idea. In 
this the Adam brothers performed a lasting service in 
the development of the modern house. Influenced 
greatly by the classic forms, particularly by the Greeco- 
Roman at Pompeii, they evolved a light and dainty 
classic style, a delicate rendition sometimes verging 
on the cold, sometimes even on the pretty, and withal, 
a new note in a development of the Georgian interior. 

As far as their influence was felt on furniture and 
decorative objects it was not for improvement. One 
can dismiss for the present this phase from the category 
of Georgian furniture styles. Let us not fail, however, 
to appreciate the advantage of the softer and less orna- 
mented wall surface, the simpler and more structurally 
panelled arrangement, the delicate and refined treat- 
ment of doorways, windows and chimney pieces, lest 
we overlook one of the very potent factors in the move- 
ment which has such a radical bearing upon our modern 



THIS style takes its name from the original Colonies 
as settled in North America during the seventeenth 
century and is the natural offspring of the parent 
stems the European countries of Britain, the Nether- 
lands and France. 

In the early sixteen hundreds, about the time of 
the death of Elizabeth, religious, political and social 
conditions in England had reached the state of fomenta- 
tion which resulted in the exodus of large numbers of 
Separatists to the Netherlands, where a larger freedom 
and a more democratic tendency was the accepted 
order of the time. 

These Separatists, colonizing the western cities of 
the Netherland country, became somewhat mixed 
with the Dutch, at least they accepted Dutch forms as 
a partial expression of their life while in their adopted 
land. This was particularly true in the domestic field. 
Most of the Separatists were among the middle and 
upper classes, and they found economic necessity and 
religious teaching both naturally trending toward a 
simple, conservative and rather barren expression of 
the home ideal. 

By 1625, when the Jacobean period in England was 
well under way, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode 


Island were colonized mostly by Puritans who had 
left Holland and found a home in the new land. Vir- 
ginia, Georgia and the Carolinas were colonized mainly 
by people directly from Great Britain without the 
influence of the adopted Dutch traditions. New York, 
or New Amsterdam, received its settlers from Holland 
direct. Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware were 
somewhat mixed with certain settlenlents of English, 
while others were of the Dutch middle classes. These 
settlements were, some of them, a little later than those 
of New England and the South. 

These three rather distinct types of colonization 
received, off and on, considerable modifications from 
French influence. It is well to consider each of these 
as quite distinct from the others to appreciate the mean- 
ing of the term "Colonial." 

The people of New England as we know them 
Puritan in origin, conscientious, financially poor, sturdy, 
determined, conservative and hardy developed a 
Colonial type quite in keeping with their general char- 
acteristics. These characteristics were crystallized and 
modified by the climatic conditions, while their art 
expressions were modified to suit the materials which 
were natural to the locality and by the ideals which 
had brought them to the new land. 

Their product was a house not too pretentious 
in size, severely plain, generally all brick or wood, with 
the architectural and decorative modifications which 
their limited means and the rigour of the climate nat- 
urally dictated. The Anglo-classic mania of England 
was in their blood, though they could hardly expect to 
build their modest houses with solid marble columns, 



pilasters and cornices, or to erect their classic ideals in 
scale to correspond with the Jones and Wren ideas 
of Great Britain. 

They did, however, admire the forms and seemed 
naturally to evolve sometimes a stone, more often a 
wooden pillar and capital, which, when combined with 
the brick or the wooden house, gave an altogether charm- 
ing, though restrained, effect, known as the Northern 
Colonial type. To those interested in studying the 
peculiar charm of this type of classic manifestation the 
towns of Salem, Plymouth and Deerfield, Massachu- 
setts, and those of Litchfield, Gilford and Hartford, 
Connecticut, present still some of the most delightful 
examples of the best development of the Colonial type. 

Not alone in the domestic field was this Colonial 
style manifest. There was crystallized a religious 
manifestation known as the "New England meeting 
house," which by its nature expressed the whole story 
of the Separatists' idea. Gothic expression was an 
undisputed expression of the mediseval Roman church. 
The Anglican church modified it to express as nearly 
as possible the Anglican idea, but the Separatist could 
not see his new religious ideal manifest in terms of either 
the Roman or Anglican architecture; nor could he 
think of representing this new faith, particularly in 
the interior, in any forms or combinations which tend 
to create a sensuous delight through the aesthetic 
combination of its significant forms and colours. To 
those who have seen the New England meeting house 
this suggestion will create a sufficient mental picture 
to give the desired criteria for judging the Northern 
Colonial its religious aspect. 


The interior of the house at first expressed architec- 
turally the influence of Wren, the Adam brothers and 
their followers, in a restrained and sometimes primitive 
way with flat, bare walls, white ceilings and wooden floors 
in strips. Among the more affluent, classic motifs are 
found in the cornices, and the wood trim betrays a decided 
Anglo-classic influence. Some of these doors, windows 
and chimney pieces are beautiful in proportion, chaste 
and simple in effect, and altogether charming. Among 
the poorer people the classic elements were almost 
unknown. Walls were, like the ceilings, bare and white 
or sometimes coloured with a tinted whitewash. A 
little later they were covered with wall papers as 
these became the vogue in England and, gradually, 
the floors received the traditional rag carpet, either 
braided or woven, as the fashion of the day dic- 

The first furniture was, of course, a direct importa- 
tion from England and it was of the Jacobean type 
mainly Queen Anne and Chippendale, with Queen Anne 
in the ascendancy. By 1700 the Colonies were suffi- 
ciently developed to receive a good deal of furniture, 
and newcomers brought with them the Queen Anne 
idea. By the early seventeen hundreds these pieces 
of furniture were copied in Hartford, Connecticut, 
Boston and Massachusetts, an American made Queen 
Anne style resulting. 

As soon as the Chippendale furniture was produced in 
England, importations to the Colonies began, and very 
soon the cabinetmakers of the New England States repro- 
duced Chippendale models. Gradually from this repro- 
duction was evolved throughout the North a simpler 



and less ornate style in chairs, tables, beds and side 
pieces. These were known as New England Colonial. 

The chairs are particularly interesting since they 
represent so many types of the late modified Georgian 
in England. These had seats made of rush, braided 
husks and sometimes cane, while they were not in- 
frequently upholstered in some foreign material. These 
straight-backed Puritanic forms made in birch, beech, 
maple and other Colonial woods, small in scale, re- 
strained in style and without ornament, constituted 
what is known as the New England style. Mahogany, 
of course, played a large part in this development and 
found its way into the structure of the interior in the 
form of solid doors, wainscoting and balustrades as 
well as furniture. 

Colonial furniture having become the vogue, it was 
found essential to repeat its motif in doors, balustrades 
and the like, in order to tie it successfully to the room 
of which it was a part. This particular point should 
be of interest to every person who is using the Colonial 
idea or who is enamoured of the mahogany medium. 
Some consistent repetition of the idea is essential to 
produce the desired design effect and also to give it, 
in the least, the classic quality of consistency in its 

We have dwelt at length upon the Northern Colonial 
because in the largest sense this expression of Colonial 
has influenced the others, and in later times is the 
phase most generally admired, copied and adapted. 
In considering this let us remember that the Colonial 
is but the child of a European mother, that it is by 
no means a new idea, but is the younger generation's 


version of the older generation's expression of their 
religious, political and social life. Naturally, it dif- 
fers from the original, but in essentials it is the same, 
its differences being just those that any adaptation to 
other circumstances than its own should show. A 
copy cannot express anything except those ideas for 
which the original stands. New modes of living and 
new ways of doing things must result in new forms of 
production in the materials used. 

The Southern Colonial is perhaps the next in im- 
portance considered with reference to our modern 
times. As has been stated, the Southern colonies 
were settled by the English. In most cases they were 
people of some financial standing and were many of 
them communicants of the established Anglican church. 
Maryland was an exception, inasmuch as it was founded 
by people representing the Roman faith, who were 
also drawn from the better English classes. Larger 
financial resources, a less Puritanic religious viewpoint, 
a broader social horizon and a warmer climate, each in 
its way produced an influence distinctly felt in the 
evolution of the Southern house. The Southern gentle- 
man's property was in a large estate. This necessi- 
tated a larger, a somewhat more pretentious and a 
less conservative house. 

The Colonial mansion, with its roomy proportions, 
its splendid verandas with classic columns, its finely 
wrought cornices and other classic details, gives the 
most impressive example of the different ideals held 
by the two sections of the same country. The furnish- 
ings did not differ radically from those of the North. 
The mahogany type of Queen Anne and Chippendale 



became the standard furniture of the South, with an 
occasional introduction of Hepple white and Sheraton, 
original pieces from England or the very best copies 
procurable in the united colonies. Larger resources 
made it possible to import these things from the mother 

Occasionally in the North the Dutch influence was 
felt. This was almost entirely lacking in the South, 
and the Anglo-classic architecture with the Queen 
Anne and early Chippendale became its paramount 
expression. New York, or New Amsterdam, was the 
natural expression of the Dutch-Netherland idea. This 
decided Dutch feeling, the same that William and 
Mary brought to England in 1688, is the foundation 
fact hi the so-called Middle Colonial type. The 
architecture of this section was strictly Dutch, the 
classic idea having scarcely modified it at all. The 
Flemish scroll, the Dutch gable, the Dutch proportion 
and detail dominate not only the exterior, but the interior 
architecture. Furniture, too, was structurally Dutch. 

These three expressions of the Colonial are sufficient 
to give the feeling for the Colonial types. They should 
enable one to perceive clearly two quite individual 
phases of the classic idea and to contrast these 
two with a somewhat non-classic evolution which 
characterized the Dutch constructive manner. Penn- 
sylvania, New Jersey and Delaware represent the 
mixed Dutch and English influences in a remarkably 
interesting way. Philadelphia alone presents suf- 
ficient examples of both types for the intensive study 
of what the combination effected in combining two 
original ideas. 


These manifestations, gradually evolving, received 
a remarkable jolt in the later days of Louis XVI. After 
the recognition of the independence of the Colonies, 
there arose diplomatic situations between them and 
France which caused the exchange of ambassadors. 
Lafayette came to the States, and Benjamin Franklin 
was sent to the French court. Picture, if you can, 
Benjamin Franklin in his New England clothes and 
top boots at the court of Marie Antoinette. On the 
other hand, it is quite as impossible to imagine the 
refined and gallant Lafayette as entirely at home in the 
united colonies, although undoubtedly Washington and 
the diplomatic set around him were more nearly con- 
gruous than was Franklin at the French court. 

The ladies of the American capital took most gra- 
ciously to Lafayette and his manners. The Louis 
XVI style through his influence was espoused and 
became the fad of the tune. Washington's house at 
Mount Vernon, Virginia, in its interior finish and its 
furnishings, is so strongly affected by the Louis XVI 
style that people frequently call it a Louis XVI in- 
terior. This vogue spread throughout the South and 
greatly influenced the interior decoration of the next 
half century. At the accession of Victoria, however, 
this impetus was exhausted and a new idea prevailed. 

While the expression of the Louis XVI style was 
more marked in the South, it was also noticeable in 
New England, particularly in the northeastern part. 
A few years before the fall of the French kingdom 
Marie Antoinette planned to flee and make her home 
in the United States. A shipload of house furnishings 
was sent to Maine, and this, which was never used by 



her but which was distributed later, was the leaven 
which leavened the whole eastern Colonial to a less 
severe and more graceful expression of the later Colonial 
type. The drawing-room in New England was an un- 
heard-of luxury. The parlour, with its closed blinds 
and drawn curtains, for use on holidays only, had taken 
its place. The advent of the Louis XVI idea brought 
with it the conception of the use of this luxurious room, 
and the Louis XVI expression seemed fitting for 
the most treasured of all the rooms in the house. 
A little later Hepplewhite, Sheraton and Louis XVI 
controlled the parlours of the upper-class New England 

It may be well, before leaving the strictly Colonial 
type, to mention the clocks, pictures, woodwork, 
china, etc., which were accessory to this style. The 
grandfather's clock, for example, beloved for its 
sentiment, is a product of Chippendale's fertile inven- 
tion. This immediately found place in the Colonial. 
Under some conditions it certainly has a charm and 
expresses the spirit of the Colonial time. On the other 
hand, in modern times, it is often used in such a way 
that it becomes the most important thing in a room in 
scale, in colour value and in material, thus giving to 
an unimportant thing the room emphasis. 

The Colonial glass, the more ornate of the mirrors, 
and the other Queen Anne and Chippendale ornamental 
pieces, should be considered with great care in the 
modern house. Clocks were practically a new idea in 
England at this time, and since they were new, the 
cabinetmaker did not hesitate to give them an un- 
seemly prominence. Mirrors in the days of Queen 


Anne were a new luxury to middle-class people, and 
to possess one was to have reached a degree of 
affluence quite desirable in those days. Presumably 
human nature was the same then as now. Having 
arrived at the place where a clock and mirror or two 
were possible, why not have this clock and the mirrors 
as important as possible that all might realize the social 
prominence which the owner had just attained? 

Without thinking how new pieces happened to ap- 
pear, there is no possibility of understanding their 
relative importance in the house. To be sure, there is 
the right of every man to choose a thing simply because 
he likes it, or because he regards it as beautiful, but 
if his aim is a room which shall be a perfect unit and 
which shall not only express good taste and what he 
personally likes, but also shall express completely the 
unit idea, then he must take into consideration the 
relative value of each piece he places in the room. 

Colonial woodwork is an element which deserves 
some consideration. The Hepple white and Adam 
tendencies had been to colour and also to use the nat- 
ural wood. Enamel was rampant in France in the days 
of Louis XV and XVI. The Colonial ideas, excepting 
the very earliest, were obtained from these sources. 
When the Colonial house was conceived, its exterior 
architectural decorative features appeared in white. 
Consistency alone demanded the white woodwork in 
the ulterior. The instinctive feeling for a chaste 
cleanliness, which was next to godliness in New Eng- 
land, may have been another reason for the painted 
white woodwork. 

At any rate, the very term Colonial suggests painted 


white woodwork with mahogany doors and balustrades. 
This strong contrast of mahogany and white woodwork 
would be quite impossible if it were not for the purpose 
of tying the furniture to the wall or relating it to the 
background. The impossibility of this dark, heavy ma- 
hogany furniture against a white or very light back- 
ground must be apparent to any one. 

This was the Colonial way of harmonizing in some 
degree these two inconsistencies. A quite effective 
one it was, too, in many instances. This strong 
value contrast is not of the most refined nature and, if 
interpreted in just that way, sometimes seems crude 
and somewhat harsh. When white woodwork is used 
let it be toned to very deep old ivory. This is suf- 
ficiently yellow and is also sufficiently neutralized to 
key it to other elements in the room. Let the ceiling 
be done in exactly the same tone as the woodwork 
not too light, never bright, but a deep, rich old ivory 
and the Colonial idea is not disturbed while the keying 
of the colour relates the woodwork to the wall and room 
furnishings. This type of woodwork is not only good 
in a Colonial room, but it is often the best way to treat 
any room where the woodwork by its colour, its tex- 
ture, or its finish is garish, crude and unpleasant* 
Sometimes in modern houses soft grays for wall, wood- 
work and ceiling are most effective. 

Out of this Colonial period and out of the Victorian, 
which may be roughly said to begin with 1827, grew 
what is known as our black walnut period. This and 
the period immediately following in the United States 
are analogous to those periods in one's life that he 
hesitates to discuss with anybody outside the immediate 


family. It is perhaps only necessary to remind our- 
selves that we passed through such an experience 
which we now look back upon as excusable from only 
one standpoint, our youth. 

The Colonial period, as we have seen, was the youth's 
expression of the way his father started him in life. 
Some time the youth must think for himself, he must 
do for himself, and the first results are not always all 
that one could desire. This is what the black walnut 
period really was. It was the young child's first ex- 
pression of his own ideas in his own way. 

The Colonial force had spent itself. The awakening 
nation had other and new ideals. Its own resources, 
its own activities, dominated expression, and black 
walnut, resembling somewhat the Victorian medium, 
was seized upon as the first wood available for such use. 
The financial resources of the country were increasing, 
we must, therefore, have an appearance of wealth. 
Since marble is expensive why not top our tables, 
bureaus, dressers and the like with this beautiful native 
stone? Surely the ancient Romans made their columns 
of marble and granite combined; the Louis XV period 
has its consoles structurally in gilt and its tops in marble. 
What matters it if the value difference between black 
walnut and white marble is somewhat strong, or if the 
proportions of one material to the other, or to the parts 
of the object in question, are totally unrelated? Then, 
too, there are the wonderful architectural effects of 
Sir Christopher Wren in England and in America. 
Why not add some of these structural features to the 
already too ponderous bed? And then, if classic and 
non-classic mouldings will give it greater weight and 



a more decided appearance of luxury, why not put 
them on so long as they will stay on? Fatally the 
callow youth has expressed his first ideas of his new 
furniture in a most voluminous way. 

We need not go into detail as to how the Oriental 
rug was used in this period, and also the rag carpet and 
the ingrain when they made their appearance. The 
Oriental was at least rare and expensive and the ingrain 
was quite new, while the rag carpets were but the left- 
overs of a less completely evolved people. 

What is true of carpets and rugs is equally apparent 
in all other things found in the period which we call 
black walnut. Many of us can recall the crowded sit- 
ting-rooms, the newly done, over done parlours, and the 
ungainly and heavily furnished bedrooms, with a feeling 
of despair and pity. Nevertheless, bad as it was, im- 
possible as it is, it was a natural step in the evolution 
of the modern idea. It was at least original. Orig- 
inality is one of the qualities which we must all rec- 
ognize as commendable and in line with progress. At 
the same time, to make originality the only criterion, 
or the main criterion, is to focus our attention on too 
unimportant an idea. Original things which are bad 
may be steps toward better ones, but they are not 
ends; they are means to an end, which end is, of course, 
an expression of ideas fitting and beautiful in them- 
selves. To unqualifiedly condemn the black walnut 
movement is to refuse to realize the law of progress, 
but to fail to see its inconsistencies and its place as 
a means to an end, is to cloud the vision for all future 
creations which are original and better. 

Because of the insatiable desire for self-expression 


which is a psychological quality, the American people 
were not satisfied with the black walnut era. They 
soon outgrew it, and instinctively turned to Europe 
for ideas with which to modify it. They still had 
with them the Queen Anne mirrors with their erratic, 
curved-line edges. Some of the furniture had equally 
impossible and distracting curved lines. The jig-saw, 
too, had made its appearance, and the straight line as 
a beauty factor was lost to sight. 

Some one has said: "Anybody can appreciate a 
curved line, but it takes an artist to see beauty in a 
straight one." This may be true. But if it does not 
take an artist to see the difference between a beautiful 
curved line and one which is ugly, then there is no dif- 
ference between curved lines and they are all beautiful. 

Puritan severity, classic simplicity and consistency, 
qualities having their origin in the Greek ideal, had 
dominated a great part of the Colonial, but were com- 
pletely lost in the period which extended from about 
1840 to 1890. From 1875 on there were two conflicting 
influences one the classic and the other the individ- 
ualistic original, which we have just described. 

The atrocities committed in 1875 and 1890 were 
not in furniture alone, but were, perhaps, even more 
noticeable in veranda brackets, which, by the way, 
supported nothing; in grills over doors where plain wall 
space should have been; league upon league of curved 
applique woodwork around mantels, and brass, gilt 
and iron chandeliers, where the writhing motions of a 
den of snakes would suggest perfect repose by com- 
parison, and many other manifestations of this same 
idea. This, by the way, is the most difficult error to 



cope with in the field of art expression in the modern 

Many American designers still believed these things 
to be good. Landlords and builders used them as 
baits to tempt their clients to a purchase. In fact, some 
remain who, either through force of habit or because 
they have not given the matter thought, fail to see the 
contortions, the unrelated motions and the ugly pro- 
portions created through the use of the meaningless 

From 1890 on there has been a strong reaction against 
this ugliest of all original periods. Contact with Euro- 
pean countries through increased facilities for travel, 
the expenditure of vast sums of money by the wealthier 
classes in the importation of European art objects, 
the clearly defined and sane attitude of the best 
architects together with the increased desire and facil- 
ity for education, wrought the great change. People 
began to see that original things were not always 
good. They also found by travel that their money 
could buy almost anything in any period. 

Those who could afford to do so first espoused the 
French idea for interiors. A few of the best and most 
expensive decorators in the country essayed to do a 
Louis XV, Louis XVI or Empire room, and assured 
the client that it was an exact reproduction as to walls 
and ceiling with original pieces for furnishing. In a 
few cases these rooms turned out to be good, and in 
not a few totally bad, because of a lack of harmony not 
only between the furniture and the walls but in the 
relations of the room with its furnishings and in its 
spirit to modern times. 


It also happened that an actual reproduction of 
an article of furniture or of a ceiling as it was in France 
created a scale relation, colour combination or maze of 
motifs quite impossible under conditions here. For 
ten or fifteen years, however, the French manner was 
ardently courted and by some charmingly used. Few 
there were, however, who dared omit a single motif 
from the ceiling at Versailles for fear the client should 
discover that it was not an exact reproduction. There 
were fewer still who would have modified a period room 
in the slightest particular even by changing an article 
of furniture. It was slavish copy. 

This domination of the French idea lasted for some 
time, but during the following ten years gradually 
changed, and the English manner became the rage. 

For ordinary purposes and general use no styles are 
so well fitted for general service as this. This is be- 
cause the English periods are the expression of a do- 
mestic idea, democratic in thought and meaning, and 
also because it is less expensive to reproduce the English 
periods in general than those of the better French 
styles. Still another reason, which is more important 
than either, is the fact that the French styles cannot be 
reproduced by any one save a craftsman with a perfect 
knowledge of the technique of his art. The French 
periods depend for their beauty upon their refined 
and exquisite charm. Unless these are elements in 
his consciousness, a craftsman cannot produce the 
results. The English periods are simpler, more intel- 
lectually conceived and more practically evolved. 
It takes as much intellect to reproduce the English 
periods with some degree of accuracy, but far less of the 



aesthetic sense is required than would be essential to 
the same degree of accuracy in the French styles. 

At present we are entering a new era in this country. 
Neither the French styles nor the English express 
exactly what the most refined and educated person in 
any walk of life desires to express in his living-room, 
bedroom, dining-room or library. A strong tendency 
is apparent to return to the first principles of the Italian 
Renaissance. In them are found certain structural and 
decorative facts which are fundamentals in all periods 
which have followed. 

The thoughtful student must analyze this Italian 
Renaissance, and he will find that the Classic, the 
Christian, and the Humanistic influences must be sepa- 
rately considered in order to form any estimate of its 
meaning. Having done this, it is not strange that our 
best decorators now are standing firmly on this first step 
in the evolution of the New Renaissance. The coming 
period in American art will be one in which the intel- 
lect and the feelings of a cultivated people with limitless 
resources will both assert themselves in the expression 
of the modern house. 

No period will be copied in its entirety. No period 
will be omitted because unfit for the expression of an 
idea. Every period will be studied and studied with 
one thing in view, and that is to know the ideas for 
which the period stands, to see the qualities in applied 
art which stand for those ideas, and to use those ideas 
and qualities to express the individual idea in the 
home. This will be the Second Renaissance, the era 
which is opening before us. 





THE problem of the modern house involves something 
more than merely providing a pretty, healthful, physi- 
cally comfortable place to satisfy man's demand for 
shelter and rest. It is the criterion of a man's taste, 
the visible response to his instinctive call for beauty. 
It furnishes the environment in which are born and 
nurtured the early impressions of those who are to set 
the taste standards in the generations that follow. 

This consideration dignifies interior decoration by 
placing it among the serious professions. No longer 
a mere matter of collecting and housing like a depart- 
ment store or a museum, or of providing a place in 
which to sleep and eat, it is destined to become, as 
man realizes more fully the power of environment, one 
of the strongest and most scientific of the educational 
factors in our generation. The time will come when 
its power in the evolution of race consciousness will be 
appreciated at its true worth. 

Though realizing fully the importance of sanitation 
and the difficulties arising from financial limitation, 
it is not our purpose to deal with these questions. It 
is rather our desire to emphasize here only the func- 
tional and artistic phases of this great problem. More 
books have been written and more has been said on the 



subjects of hygiene and economics than any of us can 
apply, but the principles that govern the choice and 
arrangement of materials, colours, forms and lines as 
they relate to common usage or as they appeal to the 
artistic sense, have been practically overlooked. 

To stimulate the reader to think before buying, to 
have a sensible reason for his purchase, to know the 
power of colour and form, and to see how men of other 
nations in the past have expressed their personal and 
racial ideas, is our aim. 

The aesthetic sense is instinctive and expresses in 
man his desire or appetite for beauty. What a man 
selects in response to this demand of his nature and 
how he arranges what he has selected, determines his 
taste. A man's taste improves as the aesthetic sense 
becomes refined or sensitized to the point of responding 
to the more subtle combinations of forms and colours. 
This matter of taste is not a fixed quality. One may 
have the gift or natural tendency to refined choice, but 
no man has by divine right a monopoly of good taste. 
Our standards are constantly changing during life as 
affected by study and by environment. 

Every time a colour is seen, a sound heard, or an 
odour perceived, a new sensation is recorded in con- 
sciousness, or one previously recorded is made more 
permanent by repetition. This is true of all sensations 
received through the senses. These numberless sensa- 
tion records accumulated since birth represent the 
part environment has played in the evolution of our 
consciousness. In other words, it is what one really 
is, for out of consciousness comes one's acts, and his 
thoughts and acts affect his personality and his use of 




all material objects. Seeing this psychological truth 
clearly is the foundation for recognizing the importance 
of the interior of the house. This, briefly, then, is the 
status of environment as a factor in character building 
and as a power in the evolution of a national civiliza- 
tion. It is even more lasting in its results than hygiene 
for the body or money for selfish purposes. It is this 
that determines the standpoint of taste and may be- 
come the stepping-stone to a higher plane of living 
both for the individual and the nation. 

What, then, can be more important than the house, 
especially its interior? Is it not here that the child 
first sees colours, hears sounds, touches textures? Is 
this not the place where first impressions are received? 
These impressions should be of the quality one would 
have the young mind make permanent as standards 
for future judgment. They will represent what the 
owner of the house regards as good taste in the grati- 
fication of his desires. As the aesthetic sense quickens, 
the taste for greater subtlety grows, and a changed 
environment is the result. 

The artistic home should not be regarded as a luxury. 
Its possession should be regarded as a duty to the 
cause of civilization as well as a response to the normal 
desires inspired by the aesthetic sense. It is essential 
to the general taste standard of the future and to the 
full appreciation and enjoyment of beauty. 

The obstacles that stand in the way of a realization 
of this ideal environment are numerous. There are 
so many questions arising in each individual problem, 
so many apparently insurmountable difficulties, and, 
worst of all, there are so many people who are willing 




to give up anything that does not come with perfect 

ease. It may be well to look into some of these com- 

In any discussion of a personal problem, outside 
of a limited number of wealthy people, the first difficulty 
raised is: "I cannot afford to buy good things. If I 
had the money I should certainly do so." Then: "I 
have bad things and why should I be so particular 
when I must put the new with the acknowledged bad 
which I already have?'' 

To the first of these objections it may be answered 
that all expensive things are not good ; nor are all cheap 
ones bad. Of course we must allow that there is a 
greater field for beautiful things where unlimited means 
are at the command of the designer, but we must also 
remember that unless the designer thoroughly under- 
stands what is good and what is not, the field for his 
caprice and ignorance is increased in proportion to the 
amount of money he has to spend. Often the money 
limit is the saving thing in the selection of articles as to 
their kind or their number. The question of selection 
is one of colour, form, line and texture and of the prin- 
ciples that produce harmony. It is not a question of 
the kind of wood, how much it cost, and how much it 
is carved, nor is it a question of how brilliant the bronze 
is, nor how gorgeous the velvet. When one looks at any 
object from the standpoint of the principles of harmony, 
which should control its structure and its decoration, 
he has the answer to the objection "I have no money," 
for money is not the standard of judgment. 

As to the second objection given, it may be said that 
it is never too late to begin to do right. The first ray 

2 w 



of light as to what is good in furniture or fittings should 
be followed. Have definitely in mind what your ideal 
of the room would be if you could have everything 
new and have it at once. A mental picture of a result 
is essential before the first step in the solution of a 
problem in interior decoration can be successfully 
taken. Buy each article with the finished whole in 
mind, and as fast as a bad thing can be eliminated 
procure another in its place that harmonizes with this 
mental picture. The house will turn out better than 
one expects, and the best of it all is that the individual 
grows with it. 

If the available money is limited start with the back- 
ground of the room. If $25, $50, or $100 be used, let 
that be expended to make the woodwork, the walls, 
the ceiling and the floor a suitable background. The 
quality of rest will find its way into the room and right 
relationships of colour be easy to establish the moment 
the backgrounds are satisfactory. 

If more changes can be made let them be in the hang- 
ings and rugs for, next to the background, these are 
the most important things in any room. 

Having disposed of background, rugs and hangings, 
furniture and decorative material can be dealt with very 
easily, very simply and quite gradually with a continued 
feeling of satisfaction that the room is growing better 
every day. The mistake made by most people, in- 
cluding many decorators, is in trying to make things 
appear moderately satisfactory against impossible back- 

Do not buy sideboards until the wall paper and 
floor are suitable. Never mind what your furniture is 



until you have something to put it against. Do not 
be distressed about vases, fancy clocks and other un- 
necessary and distracting objects until your furniture 
is right and the more important decorative ideas are 
well looked after. In other words, build from the bot- 
tom up. The background is the foundation upon which 
all things must rest. 

Another objection has been made, something like 
this: "There are the old inherited pieces of furniture" 
(usually mahogany) "which have belonged to the family 
for generations. These, of course, are not good, but 
how can I part with them since they are family heir- 
looms?" If one is not handicapped by these things he 
usually is by wedding presents, holiday gifts or sense- 
less purchases made without thought or because they 
were believed at the time to be bargains. 

Heirlooms, gifts and foolish purchases are either a 
matter of sentimentality or of supposed economy. 

Aunt Jane may have been a good woman. She may, 
however, have had some misconceptions as what con- 
stitutes the most artistic combination of colour, line 
and form in a chair or table. In this state of Aunt 
Jane's consciousness she probably bought the table 
which you now have. Now that she is probably in a 
state of consciousness in which she realizes how bad 
the table is, neither you nor I can be expected to ac- 
cept this table as our idea of what a table should be. 
The fact that one disposes of Aunt Jane's table in the 
wood pile or the attic in no way interferes with one's 
respect and love for Aunt Jane. 

Until it is possible to disassociate tables, chairs and 
other objects from human beings, and particularly 




from human beings in other states of existence, it will 
not be possible to deal successfully with family heir- 
looms in modern houses. Let us judge the table, the 
chair, the chest or the bed, on its merits as an abstract 
idea, disassociated from whoever had it, and be big 
enough and broad enough to take a stand against any- 
thing that is not good and right, be its associations 
ever so closely connected with family or friends. 
This is the only possible way in which one can be 
in a frame of mind to consider the disposition of such 
articles as he knows to be unfit for further use. It 
may be well to remember that there is a difference 
between that noble and highly spiritual quality called 
sentiment and the weak, sickly counterfeit of it which 
we call sentimentality. 

What to do with these things, provided one is will- 
ing to part with them, is willing to risk family criticism, 
the friendly questions that arise when the occasional 
visitor finds his gift missing from the top of the piano, 
is a serious question. The habit of giving furniture 
that is unfit for use to the poor is deadly, if one con- 
siders at all the establishment of a taste standard. 
Why should the poor have things in worse taste than 
anybody who is not poor? A man has a right to good 
things, and the practice of giving half -worn bad things 
in clothing and in furnishings to somebody who is 
supposed to be grateful for anything on earth is per- 
haps responsible more than any other one thing for the 
present way of regarding the interior of the house. 

Better for a man to have a pine table, chair, bench 
and bed, decently stained, with respectable lines and 
well placed in his room, than a Queen Anne table, a 



marble-top black walnut dresser, a Morris chair and a 
Mission bed, any one of which may or may not be an 
atrocity beyond words. There is always the wood 
pile, the unspeakable attic, and as a last resort, if the 
house is large enough, a special room set apart for idols. 

Again we constantly meet the objection, particularly 
in rented houses, that the landlords refuse to do any- 
thing. If there is no landlord to refuse and the man 
owns his house, then it is, that he cannot afford it or 
does not like to destroy or mar anything that has been 
so for a length of time. 

Let us first deal with the landlord. In many houses 
or apartments built twenty-five years or even fifty 
years ago are found grills over doors, plate rails 
anywhere, abnormal growths on and around the chim- 
ney piece and set mirrors. There are also atrocious 
stair balustrades, garish tiles around the chimney piece, 
wedding-cake decorations about the ceiling and im- 
possible varnished or grained wood surfaces in the trim. 
These things have made such places not only unin- 
habitable but dungeons of misery to all persons of 
feeling or intelligence. 

It is sometimes hard to get the landlord to tear these 
things out. There can be no background until every 
one of these things has been changed. The grills, the 
abnormal growths, the wedding-cake decorations and 
the balustrades must come out, while the trim must be 
redone. Almost always this can be, at least, painted old 
ivory or gray, which, though a last resort, is under most 
circumstances the thing to do. The tiles can also be 
painted and should be the colour of the trim, for they, 
too, are an essential element of the background idea 


which is the fundamental one in the whole conception. 
The elimination of these stumbling-blocks is quite as 
necessary to carrying out any scheme of furnishing 
as the purchase of any number of new things or the 
arrangement of these things after one has acquired 

The assertion is often made that it is impossible to 
find good things in the trade. Frequently one hears a 
remark such as: "There are no wall papers except 
flowered ones to be bought in our town." "There are 
no one or two tone rugs nor other types whose ornament 
figures do not stand out and offend the sensitive eye." 
" Cretonnes, printed linens and other textiles are much 
too bright and too floral in their pattern and good, 
dignified, unobtrusive patterns cannot be bought." 
Furniture, too, comes in for its share of criticism along 
exactly the same line. 

In answer to this let me say that demand always 
has and always will govern the supply; that the supply 
will be furnished when there is a demand, and that the 
trade has in stock exactly what people want. When 
people demand better things, manufacturers will make 
them and tradesmen will sell them. It is the public 
taste that is at fault and not the trade. 

After twelve years of intimate acquaintance with 
every branch of allied interior decorating trades in the 
largest city in America, I am convinced that one thing 
is true: that there is no one class of persons in this 
country more anxious to learn, more ready to respond 
or more loyal in their efforts for better things than the 
trade. This statement applies to wholesale and retail 
men, to those managing the textile shops, wall-paper 



shops and furniture shops. It is a very general and 
clearly defined feeling. When the consumer raises his 
standard of what is good the producer will raise his, 
and the middleman will respond naturally and quickly. 

The greatest hindrance to our realization of what is 
best in house planning is found within ourselves. Do 
you not frequently hear people say: "I like it. I do 
not care whether it is right or not; it pleases me, so what 
difference does it make? It was good enough for my 
day and I guess it is good enough for yours." Or, "I 
love nature and therefore want it as much as possible 
about me in the house." These personal whims are 
responsible for more than is at first apparent. Is it 
not well to ask ourselves : why do I like it, or why am I 
pleased? Is it because it conforms to the laws of 
beauty and arrangement, or is it because I do not know 
whether it is good or not? Does it please me because it 
does not please somebody else, or because I have a reason 
for being pleased? Some who in their day made long 
journeys on horseback instead of a steam train, or 
went to bed with a candle instead of an electric light, 
may have changed their attitude of mind in respect to 
these conditions while they have not changed them 
quite so radically in other matters equally important. 
To deal with nature as nature and to deal with a def- 
amation of nature as interior decoration are two radi- 
cally different matters. 

Let not the nature lover believe that anybody is 
likely to translate nature into carpets, wall papers, 
brass ornaments and plaster of paris, and do so success- 
fully. Let him go on loving nature in nature's place. 
It is meet and right so to do. At the same time let 



him wake up, and wake up now, to the fact that what- 
ever of nature is translated into material must be con- 
ventionalized so as to be consistent in that material, or 
it loses all its art value and becomes a cheap attempt 
to imitate something which it is impossible to imitate. 

There is a difficulty, too, with persons who are en- 
tirely wedded to some one historic period and believe 
that no other is worthy of expression, or that no other 
national one is fit to use for any kind of individual 
expression. Some people are essentially French in their 
manner and form of expressing themselves. Others 
are English. Some are so individual as to be Louis 
XV or Jacobean, and a few, I regret to say, are still 
Queen Anne. But people are indeed rare that are 
adequately expressed by any one period idea, and the 
growing tendency is to ignore the exactly reproduced 
period and to accept, adapt and use objects from related 
periods to express a mixed national life. 

The chapters on historic periods have been given 
principally to show the qualities for which they stand 
and our need to assimilate these qualities, whatever 
their period name is. This does not mean that a 
person should not be individual in his colour choice, 
and personal in his likes and dislikes, as well as quite 
natural in his selection of forms and decorative effects. 
It means that the more he knows what others have 
done, the more he will know what not to do, as well as 
what to do, and it also means that the less he limits 
himself to one colour scheme, one furniture style, one 
decorative idea, the broader becomes his concept, the 
wider his experience and the more versatile and refined 
his expression. 



It is true, we have emerged from the Victorian Era 
and its black walnut, marble-top offspring. But many 
of the objects which we, as Americans, associate with 
the Victorian period are still with us, or cheaper rep- 
resentations of them are, even though we have said 
fond farewells to the marble-top chamber suit and the 
plush parlour chairs. 

It is not an uncommon thing to see in rooms other- 
wise quite possible an accumulation of small articles sup- 
posed to be decorative or useful, ranging all the way 
from dried grass and cat-tails to knit tidies and piano 
covers. These aggregations include unnecessary and un- 
decorative vases, statuettes, hand-painted objects and 
other sentimental belongings. 

Since this field of unnecessary personal objects 
is unlimited, since the affection and regard in which 
these objects are sometimes held is so sacred, and since 
people positively intelligent in most things refuse to 
show a sign of common sense where these are concerned, 
the only thing we can do is to arouse those who are 
responsible for such things to a thoughtful considera- 
tion of their qualities. No two persons being alike, 
no two methods will apply to any one person. Each 
person must, however, look about and see what things 
he has that are useless, inexpressive of anything except 
himself, and capable only of collecting and harbouring 
dust. When he has decided this let him eliminate 
what he will and start anew. Thus a decorative scheme 
may have its birth. 

Out of repeated right experience comes knowledge. 
Knowledge is power, and power to use external material 
things to express ideas is the end and aim of material 










life. To choose an article without a knowledge and 
feeling for its fitness and beauty is unwise. To choose 
it without considering it in its relation to its back- 
ground and to each of the other objects with which it 
will be used in a room is worse. The failure to test 
one's arrangement by the principles of form is often 
the cause of a failure to make the most of whatever one 
has. Knowledge grows as one demonstrates what he 
has already learned. Nothing is thoroughly under- 
stood until it can be consciously demonstrated. 

It has been the purpose of this chapter to call the 
reader's attention to the wonderful opportunity that 
the interior decorator and the house maker has to 
create an environment which will be the means of a 
higher state of aesthetic appreciation in the generation 
that is to follow. It has also been our ami to point out 
the stumbling-blocks to a full realization of an aesthetic 
ideal in furnishing and to incite a determination to 
make a beginning in the direction of overcoming these 
obstacles. It is further designed to arouse a desire 
to investigate the fundamental principles which govern 
form and decoration, and to use these principles daily 
in our selections and in our arrangements until, uncon- 
sciously, what we touch shall express a new state of 
personal consciousness hi which good taste is not a 
thought-out act but an unconscious, irresistible im- 
pulse in all we do. 



IT is preposterous to think that there can be a class of 
set formulae given by which any and every room may 
be properly planned. One meets, however, those who 
want such formulae and those who are quite willing to 
give them. This creates a situation quite like that in 
which a patent medicine is put on the market with the 
assurance that it will cure every human ill, when, as a 
matter of fact, it is probably inadequately adapted to 
even one badly disordered state. 

The house is an individual thing. Each room in it is 
individual, for the varied functions of the rooms and 
the personal differences of those who may use them all 
influence each particular element in the unit. 

To say that a dining-room should be in this or that 
colour scheme, with this or that style of furniture, is 
not only absurd but entirely misleading as to what 
interior furnishing means. What is true of the dining- 
room is no less true of the living-room, the sleeping- 
room, the library, or other rooms in which the personal 
element is concerned. 

What one can do, however, is to stick fast to the 
principles which govern all forms of expression, and 
then use his intelligence, and that of his advisory decora- 
tor, to make the elements that go to make up the room 



an expression of the personality of the one for whom the 
room is planned. When principle takes the place of 
fad or formula and impersonal qualities are seen as a 
media of expression, personality will find no difficulty 
in manifesting itself in any room under any conditions. 

Each house is the natural expression of an individual's 
idea of functional fitness, beauty in environment and 
good taste. Function or fitness is the fundamental 
idea of the room. There is a tendency frequently to 
let other elements creep in which in themselves are 
not bad, but which destroy the functional idea for 
which the object stands. 

For example, sentimental souvenirs, or decorative 
objects, are allowed to occupy space in the room that 
one can ill afford to give to such trash. These objects 
also are frequently placed upon tables, pianos, cabinets, 
dressers and the like in such a way that the real function 
of the object on which they are placed is completely 
obscured. Mirrors cannot be used, drawers opened 
or shut, pianos closed or opened, tables used for any 
practical purpose, without moving these senseless 

How often lamps or other lighting features are so 
placed that it is impossible to read or sew by them. In 
the same way hangings and curtains are so placed that 
windows no longer admit light or serve to protect from 
outside observers; chairs bear no relation to tables so 
far as reading, writing or other work is concerned. In 
short, the acquisition or the placing of objects functional 
or beautiful in such a way that they do not fully express 
their use idea is in bad taste. To destroy the functional 
feature of an object by the addition of a less important 



one or by a bad placing of that one is neither sensible, 
economical nor artistic. 

The first essential in the individual room is the judg- 
ment necessary to ascertain that every object in it 
is so placed that it does its own work in the most ef- 
ficient manner. Until each object is so placed the 
room is not right, however individual it may seem. It 
must be clear that no formula can be given for this. 
A writer or author requires a table, perhaps a desk, 
chairs and other material in quite different relations to 
each other and to lighting than the person who uses the 
same type of room for visiting purposes or as a reading- 
room or library. 

The dining-room in the moderate house is sometimes 
used for other purposes. In this case function demands 
quite a different arrangement of the table, chairs, light, 
sideboard and other articles. 

It is well to raise the question as to whether every 
article in the individual room you have in mind meets 
as nearly as possible the criterion you have of functional 
fitness. If it does, it matters not whether you are a 
musician, an artist, an author, a seamstress, a lawyer 
or a doctor the room is in harmony with your life 
work, which is yourself, and will become personal when 
you know how to express yourself in terms of colour, 
form, line and texture. 

Beauty is the quality of harmonious relationships. 
A formula to produce it does not exist. But principles 
of harmony in colour, line, form, texture and arrange- 
ment do exist and no two people can interpret them 
alike. Nor will they do so if these principles become 
unconscious working elements of the mind. Accept, 


then, the fact that beauty is harmony. Learn next 
what things are harmonious. Use, in the third place, 
such elements as express your idea, personal and in- 
dividual, of the function included in your room idea. 
As far as you can, demonstrate these principles; beauty 
will result. 

It matters not in what field one works, conscious, 
constant right choice and right usage is good taste. 
Just as one improves in manners by habitual practice, 
though a tendency to these may be inborn or not, just 
so one improves his taste in colour by habitual choice 
and use of the best within his knowledge. 

Let us not be satisfied, then, with any expression 
that happens to come along which rests the body, gratifies 
sentimentality or seems cheap. Be willing to go with- 
out rather than have a bad thing and one will grow in 
good taste. 

Many who would not talk too loudly in public or 
parade their own personal grievances in conversation 
do not hesitate to do so in a living-room or dining-room. 
Further analogies might be given, but this is sufficient 
for any one to see that rooms, except very personal 
ones, like bedrooms or boudoirs, are not the places in 
which to exploit one's idiosyncrasies. Impersonal treat- 
ment of impersonal objects will seem personal enough 
to the varied kinds and types of people who must come 
and go in the ordinary room. 

In every problem, however, there are certain things 
we shall call them premises that may well form 
part of the foundation plan for decorating any room. 
No one of these is more important than geography. 
Any room in Florida presents a different problem from 



the same room in the Adirondack Mountains. The 
town house with its imperfect light, coming, perhaps, 
from two directions, perhaps one, is quite another prob- 
lem from the country house with its open fields and 
adequate light from all sides. The problem of the 
house on the hill and the one in the valley presents two 
different aspects in the matter of colour and form. 
Trees close to the house, dense shrubbery and other 
objects change the plan from the very outset. 

In the hot, sunny South there is the problem of 
getting air and excluding the burning sun. In the 
extreme North there is the air to come in but cold to 
be kept out while the sun is admitted. This has a 
decided influence on the placement, size and number of 
windows, and the location and arrangement of doors, 
halls and the like, and also upon the shutters, hangings 
and window accessories. 

The side of the house on which the room is located 
is also of importance. The south and southeast, with 
their almost continuous sun, call for a choice of cooler 
colours. The northwest, on the contrary, with its 
generally cold gray light, requires warmer and more 
luscious colour than the southeast, or even the south- 
west, of the same house. 

This is a matter of function only. The Southern 
house must be comfortable perhaps the year round, 
with the temperature above normal. It must not only 
physically and structurally be so made that air can be 
easily circulated without admitting too much heat or 
light, but colour must be chosen which is an antidote 
or complement to the extreme heat of the atmosphere. 
Warm rich reds, oranges and yellows are inappropriate 

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where the temperature expresses the same quality. 
Greens, blue greens, blues, violets and some yellows 
may be used in warm temperatures. 

The reverse of this is true in the Northern house, in 
which the climatic conditions are directly opposite, 
and something of the same result is sought. Make 
colour do the work which the climatic condition does 
not; let it act on consciousness as a supplement to 
what is being forced on us through the senses. This 
is what colour is for. Its function is to stimulate 
certain ideas in the mind, either consciously or uncon- 
sciously. Thus it produces a pleasurable aesthetic 
sensation and also has a neutralizing effect upon other 

The city house must be treated in colour in precisely 
the same way: the north side in warm colours, the 
south in cooler. This does not mean that full intense 
colours, or even half intense, in any of these tones must 
be used, but it does mean that if the cool colours dom- 
inate in the southern exposures and the warm ones in 
the northern exposures, there is a feeling of equality, 
consistency and harmony in the house unit that cannot 
be obtained otherwise. 

This rule has many modifications. For example, 
some persons must have more intense colour about 
them than others. Some believe they cannot exist 
unless they have a blue, a red or a green room, believing 
that, temperamentally, they require something of the 
kind. There are many other things that influence 
this general statement but, in the main, the rule should 
be followed. 

If one is to spend only the summer months in a 



country house, and if the climate during that time is 
warm, nothing is more helpful in obtaining comfort 
than rooms in light, cool colours. Let the blues, 
greens and their hues dominate; let the yellows be 
neutralized to an old ivory, and introduce only sufficient 
warm colour to give the personal and exciting note 
necessary to vitalize the room. 

These general geographical situations are the first 
thing to consider in furnishing and decorating any room 
in the house. A decorator or an owner who attempts 
to select a trim, a wall paper, or a rug without first 
asking himself how many windows there are in the 
room, from what direction the light comes, how much 
sun the room gets, and what part of the day it gets it, 
has omitted the one thing which will help him to decide 
on a right background. On the other hand, it is as 
essential to know whether a room is to be used during 
the entire year or a portion of it, and whether sunlight is 
obscured by nearby bushes or other buildings, as it is 
to know whether it is a dining-room, a bedroom or a 
living-room that is to be furnished. 

Geography, then, plays an important part, and 
affects even the choice of material out of which a house 
is to be built. If the house is to appear as a part of 
the landscape surrounding it, it must be built of some- 
thing which seems to have some connection with that 
landscape. In some places white marble is out of 
place; in others brick and other kinds of stone are 
equally so. Sometimes a wooden house is remote 
from the idea of the landscape. Whenever this is the 
case, it is quite impossible to harmonize the house with 
the grounds and with the more remote accessories of 




which it becomes a related part. Harmony between 
the landscape and the house is fundamentally important 
from the standpoint of the exterior. 

Another important premise is the function of the 
room. If one has decided to paper several rooms in his 
house, and he visits a wall-paper shop with this in mind, 
he will often find a salesman who displays his wares, 
declaring: "We are using these papers this season 
more than any others," or, "This colour is all the 
rage." Sometimes, too, textures figure as yearly fads. 
Japanese grass cloths, glazed papers, foliage, matted 
surface, etc., all have had their day. The function of 
the room is a question that is fundamental and has 
nothing to do with what is selling best or what is newest. 

If a paper is for a bedroom, let it express the bedroom 
idea of sleep and rest. The value of the paper, light 
or dark, is a matter of taste, sometimes a matter affected 
by the age of the occupant. It may also be modified 
in value by the amount of light in the room and by the 
fact of being a country house or a town house. But 
two things are essential in this room rest and sleep 
and it matters not what the style is, these qualities 
should be present. If the hue is to be decided by the 
direction and amount of light admitted to the room, 
by the objects that are already there, and by the per- 
sonal preference of the occupant of the room, there are 
three influences any one of which may be entirely 
antagonistic to the other two. Who shall decide which 
one to sacrifice? Rest and sleep comes first then 
personal choice without doubt. 

If the room has very little light, the colour may be a 
little more intense than it otherwise should be, but the 



background colour is fixed by the law of background, 
not personal whim. Neither southern exposures nor 
the vogue of the day will make a too intense back- 
ground right for rest or sleep in any house. 

Function, then, is fundamental wherever a room is, 
or whoever occupies it. What is true of one of a type 
of room is true of the others of the same type. 

Another obstacle that often interferes with the selec- 
tion of material has been somewhat discussed in the 
previous chapter. This is the fact that objects already 
in the room must be retained there as associates of the 
new ones. The study of historic periods shows one so 
clearly the quality value of every article of furniture 
that one should be familiar with furnishings as quality 
expressions. The straight-lined architectural features 
of an Italian chair or a Mission desk present a firm, 
unrelenting, yet simple quality effect which should 
immediately be recognized. The qualities of an object 
should be detected at sight . Everything in furniture and 
furnishing means something. This elemental meaning 
is the expression of an idea, and it is quite simple to find 
other ideas which in combination express a whole. 

Some of us remember a game played with letters of 
the alphabet cut and pasted on small cardboard squares. 
One way of using these was to take a certain number of 
letters and see how many words could be made out of 
these letters. Another was to take a certain word and 
see how many other words could be made from the 
letters of that word. Each letter in each case expressed 
an idea. The word "simple," for example, contains 
six letters, each different in its meaning and form 
from the other five. If any four of these letters were 


given, and one were asked to make the completed word 
"simple," he would find no difficulty in supplying the 
other two letters from the collection. 

This is precisely what should be done in interior 
decoration. Take account of stock before you paper 
the wall, buy new hangings, or add a chair, a desk or a 
table. Determine what you want your room to ex- 
press when it is done, and then there are two different 
things to remember: first, buy the thing which you 
know supplies one of the missing letters in your word, 
and do not buy anything that does not supply it; in 
the second place, remember that when you have sup- 
plied the two letters, there are no more letters needed, 
and if you find a cheap object, or even a beautiful one, 
that is not required to complete your word, it is super- 
fluous and never can be a part of your original idea. 
You decided that when you selected the word "simple" 
instead of " Constantinople" as your room idea. 

If people would see this much, there would be no 
very bad rooms, so far as putting new objects with 
those already acquired is concerned. 

Remember, then, that a scale quality which is pon- 
derous and heavy must not be supplemented with an 
object which is light, informal and tiny, except there 
be some middle grounds in which a scale is found that 
relates these two different things. Great divergence 
in colour relationships in textures, size, shapes and line 
directions must be harmonized in the same way. This 
is done by remembering the Greek law and the subtle 
relationships which it makes possible. A reversion to 
principle is always safe in forming a critical judgment 
in the field of applied arts. 



The room quality which causes most discussion is per- 
sonality. It is hard to believe that another's personality 
is as important as one's own. It is still harder to 
believe that some one else may have a more pleasing 
conception of anything than we have ourselves. Re- 
member that a room to live in and one to look at are 
two things and that you do not have to live in every 
room you see or create. 

Many interior decorators err in supposing that 
because they have succeeded in developing a type of 
room which has been called beautiful and successful, 
they can apply the same treatment to any room. It 
is astounding how many decorators plan other people's 
rooms while thinking about themselves. This is an- 
alogous to the case of a physician who begins his 
diagnosis by introspection, determining first the state 
of his own internal organs. Then, having decided how 
vhe himself feels, advises his client what to take. 

The matter of personality is more important than 
geography, functional fitness or old things which must 
be retained. It is more important because every 
person is more interested in himself than he is in any- 
thing else try as he may to be otherwise. He wants 
something, and knowing what he wants, believes that 
he has a right to express that want. The skillful decora- 
tor finds out all he possibly can of the personal char- 
acteristics of his client, his likes and dislikes, natural 
tendencies and idiosyncrasies, before he shows him any 
wall cover or discusses the cost of furniture. By the 
way, this question of cost is the last thing to mention. 
A few moments' conversation will usually show whether 
a client likes red or blue, and should also disclose 


whether she ought to have it or not. Manifest antag- 
onism is not the method by which to obtain the desired 
result, but a gradual elimination of one idea and the 
substitution of another. This is tact. 

What is true of colour is apparently so in other 
fields. Some personalities are expressed in erratic 
motions; such persons, for their peace of mind, should 
be set in a perfectly balanced, well-held and consistent 
room. To so lead and influence the client that he be- 
lieves the room to be arranged according to his own idea 
is the work of the clever decorator. When the right set- 
ting for the personality is attained, the client is, almost 
without exception, pleased, even though he may have 
rebelled during the process. 

The essentials of a room are far too significant to 
permit a personal fancy to interfere with right usage. 
The matter of backgrounds, the method of hanging 
curtains, the consistent structural arrangement of 
furniture, modifications of this structure by the freer 
elements, the balanced arrangement for rest and the 
proper placement of decorative objects are not open to 
personal whim. They are governed by common sense 
and the laws of choice and arrangement which are 
fundamental in any right design. But the final hue 
choice in colour, how dark or how light the room shall 
be, or what shall be the dominating characteristic of 
the room, are questions for personal choice. 

The personal touch, too, is shown, or should be, in 
the smaller articles in the room, which by their choice 
and placement indicate the character of the occupant. 
This personal touch is found in the selection, framing 
and hanging of pictures, although the way they are 



hung and framed is largely a matter of impersonal 

The personal touch again is felt in the selection and 
arrangement of flowers. Both these subjects will be 
treated later in detail, but a person who habitually 
selects arid uses lilies is a very different person from 
one who uses carnations, or one who would chose 
American beauty roses not to mention orchids. 

A few photographs, too, if properly framed add a 
personal touch to the quality of a living-room. Pieces of 
pottery or other decorative objects sometimes give just 
the note that makes the room the visible expression of the 
inward thought of the person who occupies the room. 

Personality should not interfere with the fundamen- 
tals of selection or arrangement which are necessary 
to good taste. The larger facts are not determined 
by personal preference, but the way in which they are 
interpreted varies with personality, and the smaller 
or more decorative objects in the room may be very per- 
sonal if they are not ostentatiously displayed, or if there 
are not too many of them in too prominent a place. 

The same thing is true of people. In the main, our 
friends are all alike. The fundamental facts of their 
structure, mental and physical, and of their decorative 
qualities, mental and physical, are the same. Per- 
sonal traits do not change fundamental facts. It is, 
however, essential that decorators should understand 
not only their business but their clients. Those, also, 
who have houses should not understand themselves 
and their own whims alone, they should also under- 
stand the laws which govern choice and arrangement 
in all houses. 




FOR many years pictures alone were regarded as fine 
art. Art study meant picture painting, while art ap- 
preciation was synonomous with picture discussion. 
The realization that art quality in pictures is identical 
with art quality in chairs and rugs has been gradual. 
This realization will lead to a better choice and a more 
consistent use of pictures in interior decoration. One 
needs to have not only a feeling for a beautiful picture, 
but a sense of its fitness as a wall decoration, and of 
its harmony with any type of furnishings to be used 
with it. 

During the historical periods painting developed 
with other branches of art. The High Renaissance in 
Italy found expression for its qualities in pictures, 
furniture, textiles and other art objects simultaneously. 
The painters of the days of Louis XV, like Watteau 
and Fragonard, expressed precisely the qualities in their 
pictures that the cabinetmakers, the textile weavers 
and the metal workers expressed in their fields. Thus 



are periods clearly defined, but it is sufficient for us to 
see the correspondence between pictures and other ob- 
jects of art expressing the same idea. 

Strictly period rooms should have strictly period 
pictures; not always pictures painted in that period, 
for many period pictures, like period furniture, were 
poor expressions of the period idea; but what they 
should have is a picture whose spirit and feeling are 
precisely that expressed by the other articles in use 
during that period. In rooms, however, in which the 
strict period idea is not intended, a wider range of 
picture choice is possible. There is no reason, however, 
for a wild and unrelated choice in pictures any more 
than in other decorative objects. The same harmony 
of idea should be apparent that is felt in any other 
quality that the room expresses. These are the funda- 
mental points in the choice of pictures for interior dec- 

Another and closely related element is the medium 
in which the picture is expressed. There are oils, 
water colours, prints, photographs, etchings and steel 
engravings. These textures have about the same 
relation to each other that burlap, linen, cotton bed- 
ticking, chiffon and cane-seated chairs have. It is 
impossible to harmonize them all in the one room, or, in 
fact, to bring any two or three of them closely together. 

If there is one oil painting in the ordinary room, it is a 
delicate matter to introduce any other picture in any 
other medium. Of course, it is possible that a water 
colour might be broadly enough treated and of a subject 
closely enough allied to make it possible. A photo- 
graph of an oil painting, similarly treated, in a similar 

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spirit, might be, under some conditions, used. Very 
rarely is it possible to combine any of these excepting 
prints with photographs, etchings with steel engravings, 
or, occasionally, a water colour with dil. 

Too many pictures together in any media indicate 
bad taste. We can learn much from the Japanese in 
that regard. They hang one picture at a time of the 
right size in the right place and, after having enjoyed 
that for some time, change it for another, and another; 
but they never present their pictures in herds or droves. 

As to frames, what they are and what they should 
be, volumes could be written. The birth and evolution 
of the picture frame is a subject that no one has, so 
far, exploited The function of the frame is to hold the 
picture in place, demark it slightly from the wall on 
which it is hung, but still relate it to the wall, and make 
easy the transition from it to the picture. When a 
picture frame does this, and in no way detracts from 
the picture itself, it is good. When it attracts atten- 
tion by its garish glitter, its erratic ornament, or its 
prodigious size, at the expense of the picture itself, it 
is one of the surest indexes of bad taste on the part of 
the owner. 

Whatever is on the wall is a part of it or it is not dec- 
orative. Right here let it be said that those frames 
which project forward like an unnatural growth cease 
to be decorative. One feels them to be a thing separate 
from the wall itself. In the good days, when pictures 
were really decorations, they were either painted on the 
wall, painted to fit wall spaces, or hung in panels or 
other spots to which they were suited in size and shape. 
Of late, owing to the influence of the Decadent Renais- 



sance, they have been surrounded by ornate, vulgar 
and expensive gilt frames whose only excuse for being 
was their showiness and their cost. The sooner this 
over-ornamented style in picture frames is eliminated, 
the sooner pictures will take their rightful place as a 
factor in the decorative idea. It is because of these 
abuses that pictures have fallen somewhat into disuse by 
all good decorators and most sensible house furnishers. 

For years the gilt frame held the field. Of late there 
has been a decided improvement, and when gilt is used 
it is now toned either warm or cool, and very much 
dulled, so that it seems, in many instances, to relate, 
somewhat, to the picture itself, being similarly keyed. 
Quite frequently, even now, it is not sufficiently keyed 
so that it has any relation to the wall surface upon which 
it is hung. Both the picture and the wall should be 
taken into consideration in th'e choice of a frame with 
reference to its value and intensity relationship. 

The motifs of decoration upon gilt picture frames are 
generally of a historic character, some Florentine, 
some French and others Flemish. These motifs are 
the same that appeared in furniture and other art 
objects and, of course, are expressive of the period 
ideas for which they stood. It is a strange fancy to 
have taken these historic motifs, enlarged them and 
made them more prominent, and then to have worked 
them into a picture frame. These frames are often 
of totally unrelated periods, and are used on pictures 
expressing ideas so foreign to those expressed by the 
motifs that they are quite antagonistic in character. 

Frequently a Decadent Renaissance frame is seen 
about such a picture as a Millet, or a French Louis XV 

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frame on a Holbein. What could be more ridiculous 
than such combinations as these, and why will the in- 
telligent public submit to such things because a picture 
framer or a so-called artist does not know any better? 
This is a field in which the common sense of the public 
can be relied upon to make a change as soon as it is 
aroused to a consciousness of the truth. 

Water colours are sometimes well framed in dull, 
flat gilt frames, and sometimes in wooden ones. Jap- 
anese prints are generally good in dead black, flat wood 
mouldings. In photographs there is a very wide range. 
Browns are the favoured tones. The frames should be 
wood, in the same hue, not more intense, and of a value 
a little lighter than the darkest tone in the picture. 
This will always produce an agreeable result. 

The size, width and strength of the mouldings de- 
pend upon several things and are too much a question 
of feeling to admit of a hard and fast rule. Large, 
single objects require a wider and stronger frame than 
delicate small ones in the same picture size. Violent 
motions of water, trees or animals require a stronger 
sustaining power than the subdued or quiet sunset or 
May-day farm scenes. Strong and vivid colour re- 
quires a stronger frame than neutral and finely blended 
combinations. Where strength and motif action pre- 
vail there width and prominence in frame appear; 
where quiet, closely harmonious combinations exist, a less 
powerful frame or support is required. Usually the 
frames selected are too wide and, more often than not, too 
much ornamented and too brilliant or intense in colour. 

The matted picture has had its day. Only in rare 
instances now is it used. An occasional water colour, 



for example, a gem or jewel, being too tiny to frame, 
is placed upon a mat that is quite inconspicuous and 
related in tone to both the water colour and the frame 
about it. This makes an easy transition from the 
picture to the frame. The same thing may be said of 
etchings . Photographs and prints are no longer mounted 
on mats but are framed, as they should be, close to the 

The fallacy of mounting small photographs or other 
pictures on two or more colours, or of leaving a white 
or a black streak around the photograph to form another 
frame has long since been felt. One moulding or frame 
is sufficient in most instances. In rare cases a narrow 
gilt edge inside the wood is permissible. The intense 
red and green as well as the pure white mats of the 
olden days are gone forever, with the rest of their Vic- 
torian associates. 

Hanging pictures is an art. In general, oils and 
other large pictures should be hung, when possible, so 
that the eye of the average person standing will be 
about opposite the centre of the picture. This is as 
high as pictures under ordinary circumstances can be 
hung. Reference has before been made to the way 
they should be hung. If wire or cord be used, let two 
appear, each parallel with the side of the frame, and 
each extending, in harmony with other vertical lines, 
to a hook at the picture moulding. Make this hang- 
ing just as inconspicuous as possible. Tone the wires 
to the wall if possible so that they are practically in- 
visible. Anything which serves to emphasize the wire 
or picture hook is not only ugly but inconsistent. 

When pictures are to be hung in groups they must 


be very carefully chosen. Most of us have small 
photographs or other pictures so personal that we think 
we cannot part with them and must hang them. We 
have no place on the wall suited to them in size or 
shape. We must, therefore, put two or three together, 
though this should be done as rarely as possible. Several 
groups of these upon a wall are non-decorative and 
generally express bad form. When groups are to be 
hung, say two or three, there are two things vitally 
important : first, the tops of these pictures must be on a 
straight line; second, they must be hung quite close 
together, say two or three inches apart, so that they 
seem easily to unite and form one decorative spot. To 
scatter or spatter them about is to use the whole decora- 
tive effect as a wall spot. These are generally better 
framed to stand on a table or cabinet than to arrange 
as wall decorations. 

An important question is what shall appear under 
pictures if they are hung upon a wall. Sometimes we 
see them hung without any relation whatever to furni- 
ture pieces, that is, they are hung in any place on the 
wall where there seems to be a bare spot. A picture 
of any considerable size with a frame of any perceptible 
weight is not very decorative on the wall unless directly 
under it is some article of furniture to which it seems 
to belong. A picture should be hung for example over 
a cabinet or console. The picture alone would be an 
impossible excrescence, but if some articles are used on 
the cabinet or console which bring the group somewhere 
near the picture, then the console, the decorative 
articles and the picture together form an agreeable 
decorative group. 



Pictures must be hung flat to the wall in order to 
form a part of the wall. There is only one excuse for 
allowing them to dip at the top, and that is that they 
may get a better light. This, however, does not in the 
least influence the matter of decoration. When pic- 
tures are hung in this way the room exists for the pic- 
ture, and not the picture for the room, for they are 
not decoratively placed when they are so hung. 

Let us try to select pictures that are in subject, in 
treatment and in framing, harmonious with each other 
and also with the various objects we are using with 
them in the room. Let us look to it that they are 
properly hung flat, with two wires, if any properly 
grouped, and related to other objects by their placement 
in the room. Under such conditions few pictures are 
essential in most rooms. Too many pictures have as 
bad an effect as too many of anything else, and a bad 
treatment of pictures is worse than a bad treatment of 
other things, because pictures are more capable of ex- 
tremes in good and bad than most articles, and there 
are more ways to misuse them because of their great 
range possibility. The greatest care is necessary then 
to limit the number, carefully decide the treatment, or, 
when in doubt, use none. 

Next in importance to the background of a room is the 
matter of its curtains or hangings. From one view- 
point they are really a part of the background. From 
another angle, however, they are more than this: they 
are the first decorative idea used with the walls and 
trim as a background for them. A discussion of cur- 
tains and hangings involves two questions: what to 
hang and how to hang it. 


While no specific rules can be given as to what shall 
be used, some hints may be helpful. In the first place, 
there is the question of their relation to the function 
of the window. If my room is already too dark or too 
light, I must choose my hangings with this as a modifying 
idea. If considerable latitude in this regard is possible, 
then less attention should be given to the thinness or thick- 
ness and the general textural weight of the material used. 

The question of lighting also affects the colour. It 
must be remembered that yellow produces light; black 
absorbs it. Blues, reds and violets are nearer black 
and, therefore, more powerful in absorbing colour than 
in reflecting it. All this must be considered before the 
colour is finally determined. 

Hangings must also be considered as a decorative 
note. If the walls are proper backgrounds plain, 
simple and free from objects which attract undue at- 
tention the curtains may be stronger in colour and 
more striking in pattern, and still be of a most fasci- 
nating decorative quality. 

Printed linens, damasks, brocades, brocatelles, etc., 
according to the character of the room, may be used 
with simple backgrounds to produce a simple decorative 
effect. If the patterns show a floral treatment the 
decorative effect is better when the curtains are drawn 
aside, thus presenting a charming colour effect without 
the introduction of the naturalistic idea in a too promi- 
nent way. 

If more than one set of curtains is to be hung, the 
inner pair may be net, fine plain lace, thin silk or case- 
ment cloth, according to the textural quality needed 
in the design idea. The outer or heavy hanging, 



which is more within the room, may be of any of the 
heavy materials before mentioned. This outer hang- 
ing serves three purposes: it adds a note of richness 
and elegance to the decorative idea, it may be used to 
regulate the amount of light during the daytime, and 
when closely drawn at night gives to the room an air of 
seclusion and privacy as well as richness that is hard 
to obtain in any other way. 

How to hang curtains is a little harder to determine. 
Window trims and other extenuating circumstances 
differ so radically that a general law is likely to be mis- 
applied. Sometimes woodwork is so bad in colour, or 
so hideous in treatment, that it is a joy to arrange the 
heavy hangings in such a way that the window trim is 
entirely covered. This is true sometimes of doors. 
If the windows are particularly small in scale for the 
room, this same treatment may be used to advantage. 
When a note of larger decorative area is desirable, it 
may be attained in this way also. 

In general, however, the inside curtain that is, the 
one next the glass should be hung inside the window 
casing. This is done by extending a small brass rod 
across the top well within the window casing toward 
the glass. If cords and travellers are obtainable, the 
inner curtain should be plaited in single plaits at inter- 
vals, so that when the curtains are hung in place they 
will exactly fill the window space when drawn together 
in the centre. This allows the curtain to hang in folds 
regularly arranged and pleasingly placed. When the 
curtains are drawn, the window space is filled and, 
when pulled apart, the curtain easily adjusts itself in a 
decorative way. 


The material should be arranged with a heading 
at the top, stiffened in some way so that it obscures the 
brass pins which are fastened into the back of the cur- 
tain. On the rod there are small brass rings into which 
these pins are fastened and the mechanics of the cur- 
tain are hidden by the heading at the top. The cur- 
tains should be of such a length that they just escape 
the window sill. They may be pulled close or left 
wide open without any effort; and they fit their space 
and place as a decorative idea. 

In hanging curtains one should always bear in mind 
that the function of the window must not be interfered 
with; neither must the function of the curtain. The 
material must be so arranged that the largest measure 
of decorative effect is obtained. The above suggestions, 
if followed, will lead to this result. 

Sometimes the outer or heavy hangings may also 
be hung within the window casing in the same way as 
the inner hangings, excepting that the former should 
be placed near the edge of the casing toward the room. 
When the rod is placed at the extreme outer edges of the 
casing, it should be raised far enough toward the top 
to conceal the casing. In this case, small brackets are 
used which will be covered by the hanging. 

The same era that produced clumsy picture frames, 
gorgeous and ostentatious, and produced badly pro- 
portioned grills and other atrocities, invented also the 
wooden curtain pole, with its brass ends and other 
trimmings. Discard these and all objects of their 
kind as impossible to the decorative sense. The brass 
rods should be no larger than is essential to perform 
their function. If possible, they should be dulled in 



colour until they are unobtrusive and show little against 
the background. The rings, pins and other trappings 
should be kept on the side nearest the glass and out of 
sight, as all other machinery must be where art or dec- 
orative quality is concerned. 

It may be inferred from this that two sets of curtains 
are generally desirable. This is not always the case. 
In some places, and under some conditions, window 
shades or blinds are essential. It is a pity that this is 
so because of their extreme ugliness. When they are used 
they should be kept rolled up and out of sight, excepting 
when performing their necessary function. With two 
sets of curtains it is less necessary to use shades. 

There are times also when the window is so small, the 
lighting capacity so inadequate, and the scale of the 
room and furniture so light that it is a mistake to have 
more than one pair of hangings. In an extreme case 
of this kind a thin net or muslin might answer the pur- 
pose. If a shade or blind is used, this should be hung 
within the casing. 

Probably no one material is as effective in as many 
ways and under as varied conditions for a single cur- 
tain as what is known as English casement cloth. This 
is good in the country, in the town house, in the North 
and in the South. It is available for a moderate price 
and is good enough to use almost anywhere. 

When one pair of curtains is used, almost without 
exception, these curtains should stop at the casement 
line. W r ith the two pairs, the preference is for the heavy 
hangings to escape the floor by an inch or two. This 
is decorative and hygienic. 

It must be borne in mind, whatever the problem is, 


that the right idea in hangings is of the first importance 
in interior decoration after the background has been 

It may be wise, while discussing the hangings as they 
relate to the window trim, to say something in regard 
to the treatment of wood as it is a part of the back- 
ground. Wood may be considered from two points of 
view only: first, the natural wood, and second an arti- 
ficial treatment of it. 

There was a time when it was considered a sin to 
obscure in any way a natural grain or other unusual 
and ofttimes ugly marks which nature had impressed 
on wood. A grain had to be brought out clearly and 
distinctly. Besides this, it was varnished or glazed 
until it appeared like wood under glass. Not so many 
years ago we even went so far as to paint the surface 
of wood, imitating its colour and streaking it with fine 
tooth and coarse tooth combs, creating grains more 
grotesque and improbable than original ones could be. 
This insincere attempt to copy nature is the worst of 

In any kind of wood there are beautiful and ugly 
pieces. The beautiful ones are the characteristic ones 
which are not grotesque miscarriages in nature. These 
woods often beautiful in colour, charming in texture 
and pleasing withal may be made ugly by any of the 
treatments above mentioned. Let them be treated 
in an oil or French finish in such a way that their 
salient qualities appear, their texture is in no way dis- 
turbed and their surface looks like wood, neither glass 
nor any other material being suggested by it. This 

is the proper treatment for natural wood. 



Often it is impossible to arrive at decorative effects 
without changing materially the colour of the wood; 
still natural wood or unpainted wood has its place 
in the decorative idea. Certain methods of staining 
wood are successful in keying it to backgrounds which 
must be used if the idea of the room is not destroyed. 
Great care should be taken, however, that an impossi- 
ble wood colour is not used if the wood is to show 
its grain and look natural in all but its colour. If the 
conventional stain is used it must in some way conven- 
tionalize the other qualities of the wood in order that 
they should be harmonious. 

The second treatment of wood I shall call artificial. 
During periods in history that have reached high states 
of social charm, where manners, customs and life ex- 
pressions were more or less artificial, it has been found 
necessary to do away with the grains and other natural 
qualities of wood in order that it, too, should express 
the same artificial life. 

In the Baroque Renaissance gilt treatment became a 
craze. Fruits, vegetables, wood and persons all were 
done in gilt. This necessitated the covering of wood 
with gold leaf that unity in treatment might obtain. 
The periods of Louis XIII and XIV are exuberant with 
artificial woods made so by the gilt treatment. During 
the periods of Louis XV and XVI, as well as the Eng- 
lish periods of Hepple white and Adam, paint and 
enamel was found to be a suitable material for ex- 
pressing the artificial idea. 

Painted woods did not longer claim to be woods. 
They represented an artificial surface, structural per- 
haps in its form, decorative in its appearance but veiled 


or hidden as to its actual material. This is perfectly 
legitimate and when followed consistently forms one 
of the most attractive and most flexible treatments of 
wood so far as interior decoration is concerned. 

A room can often be given a suitable background if 
an ordinary wall paper, soft and grayed in tone, is sup- 
plemented by a trim, either deep ivory white, or, better 
still, by a colour as nearly as possible like the wall 
covering. This, with a ceiling the same colour, but one 
shade lighter, and a floor of the same tone, but darker, 
is one of the most charming backgrounds imaginable 
for many types of modern rooms. 

To consider wood as trim and not give a word to the 
use of wood in furniture would be to leave the subject 
too incomplete. 

Some periods expressed themselves most clearly by 
leaving the wood in its natural state, or nearly so ; others 
treated it so that the naturalistic tendency might be 
somewhat obscured, while in the later French and 
English periods the surfaces were entirely covered by 
gilt or enamel in order that they might be brought into 
closer harmony with other materials. 

Even in a brief treatment of this subject one general 
statement may be made. In no case, excepting in very 
refined and artificial Georgian types, and in those 
Louis XV styles in which a clear and transparent sur- 
face was essential, is there reason for varnishing or 
glazing woods. It is not enough to know that a depart- 
ment store or a furniture factory has turned out pieces 
with "a certain varnished treatment. An expert finish of 
wood is essential in order that the wood may take its 
place in the decorative scheme. 



The lighting of a room is of fundamental importance 
in the general effect. Too much thought cannot be 
given to the amount of light, its kind and its distribu- 
tion. In the disposal of daylight we have no present 
concern, but the matter of artificial lighting is of the 
utmost importance to every house owner and to every 
interior decorator. Since colour is light, without it 
there is no colour, and by it all colour combinations 
may be impaired. Since the eye sees colour only, 
light is the element most important in interior decora- 
tive effects. 

Let us consider some of the ways in which rooms have 
been lighted. The most impossible thing for the ordi- 
nary small room is the central chandelier. The chande- 
lier of Louis XIV and XV with its glass prisms sparkling 
amidst the lights is an idea that is consistent with the 
background, furnishings and clothing of the people 
for whom the setting was planned. This same chande- 
lier idea translated into Jacobean terms is quite another 
matter. To put it into modern apartment house dec- 
oration is an even more difficult problem. 

It is not necessary to discuss in detail the hideous 
things that have been chosen as lighting fixtures. 
They are in many cases grotesque beyond words. This, 
however, is not their worst fault. They light a room 
in such a way that, unless everything is concentrated 
in the centre of the room, it is impossible to produce 
pleasing effects, as well as irrational to expect to make 
use of the lights. 

Side bracket lighting is a great improvement over 
the chandelier, if the room is small enough to get suffi- 
cient light in this way. A later invention is called the 


indirect lighting system. It has the great advantage of 
producing a pleasing light on the floor or near it, but also 
the much greater disadvantage of unduly lighting the last 
place in the world that should be lighted. Of what use 
is a brilliantly lighted ceiling, and how can one expect 
to keep his attention on the lower part of the room 
when the upper part is brilliantly lighted? Besides 
being inartistic, it is an unwarranted waste of light. 
None of these systems so far seems to be adequate in 
function or beauty. True, an occasional man says he 
has never seen a room too light. It might be remarked 
that every one does not need to be knocked down to 
know that he is hit, neither is it necessary in every case 
to fire a cannon to make one recognize that a noise 
has been made. It is equally needless to use all the 
light it is possible to get to obtain functional fitness or 
charming combination. What we see depends wholly 
on what we are and what we see with. 

The most successful way of lighting a room is by 
side lights, well placed, and by lamps electric or other- 
wise distributed judiciously about the room. The 
size of the room and its function determine largely the 
number and placement of these lamps. It is possible 
in such an arrangement to have light enough for any 
purpose at any time, little enough for comfort and rest 
when desired, and exactly the right amount in the right 
place to bring out any group of things in the room or 
the entire room as may be desired. 

These lamps should be placed for reading, sewing, 
writing, or to call attention to groups of furniture or 
decorative objects, as the case may be. This and 
this way only is successful in bringing out the charm 



which every living-room should possess in the evening. 
The shading of these lamps, and the side lights as well, is 
a matter of great moment. In fact, more depends upon 
this, probably, than upon the placement of the lamps. 

No one colour is always good in all places and under 
all circumstances, but all soft, neutralized tones of 
yellow, yellow orange, orange, red orange, yellow green, 
green and blue green are quite possible under certain 
conditions. The yellows and orange tones, of course, 
have the widest range of usefulness. These need not 
be brilliant in intensity, nor can one say they should 
be light or dark in value. The texture of the material 
depends upon the textural decorative idea of the room. 
Sometimes China silk is light and graceful enough in 
feeling, and sometimes a brocade, taffeta, damask and 
even paper parchment has been used with astonishing 
decorative effect when the texture of the room was con- 
sidered as a quality in the design. 

One thing is almost certain. The shades must be 
covered not only around the sides but on the top with 
the material and lined with white. Often two thick- 
nesses of the material are used with the white lining 
to concentrate the light and throw it down upon the 
objects one desires to light brilliantly. This soft, 
soothing light properly distributed about the room 
makes reading and writing in certain parts of the room 
a delight, while other portions of the room are lighted 
in such a manner that rest, calm and repose are the 
feelings induced. 

Lighting, then, should be considered, like every- 
thing else, a matter of fitness and a method of tying 
together the apparently unrelated elements of a 


room in one unit of keyed colour so that not only 
beauty, but pleasure through it, is the inevitable out- 

There is an opportunity for fine distinction in the 
selection and arrangement of bric-a-brac or ornament. 
The room, when finished, is a unit, or should be. This 
does not mean that it should contain one idea only. 
It means that only such qualities of colour, form, line 
and texture should be associated together as accord in 
spirit and are harmonious. 

The principles of colour and form as discussed in 
Part I should aid one in deciding when things are com- 
fortable as parts of a general whole. It does not take a 
very keen sense of appreciation to see that a picture of 
the period of Henry II and Marie de Medici is quite 
out of harmony with a Gothic chest panel or a Gothic 
figure. Nor does it take much imagination to see that 
the curved-line, symbolic, and imaginative detail of the 
Gothic period is quite out of concord with the dancing, 
sprightly gayety of the curves used in the time of Louis 

Sevres ware, in its texture, colour and import, is a 
part of the period of Louis XV. It is as forbidding 
with some other pottery or ornament opposed to it in 
spirit as the other articles of furniture which we have 
named. Old Chinese pottery of the Ming dynasty is 
useful in Italian, Early English, Early French and 
modern rooms to as large an extent as any one orna- 
ment type. That is because it is of a refined, subdued 
colour, graceful shape and no obtrusive design. It 
would scarcely find a place, however, in the late French 
or late Georgian styles, where daintiness and light and 


daring treatments are the particular charm of these 

It is safe to say that too many such things are used 
in most rooms. In very luxurious ones this is almost 
certain to be true. There is an equal chance to overdo 
this matter in the cheapest kind of material. The 
department stores and other shops place on sale so 
much wildly formed, badly covered, cheaply manu- 
factured stuff, which they call pretty, that people 
with a desire for beauty, and not too much taste culti- 
vation, are quite likely to fall a prey. There can 
scarcely be too few pieces of ornament unless one is 
certain such pieces are beautiful in themselves, in 
harmony with the rest of the room and positively es- 
sential as a decorative note in the general scheme. 
With this key no one can go far astray. 

There are herds of cows, droves of sheep, flocks 
of birds and regiments of men; but what shall we call 
the general use of flowers in compressed masses as 
they are commonly used with the idea that they are 
decorative? When the Japanese are able to see two 
flowers in one vase they have arrived at an extravagant 
use of these the most beautiful of nature's materials. 
Three are seen together very rarely. 

How often one is appalled at the number of roses 
that it is possible to squeeze into one small jar. When 
it is not possible to get them all in, of course they can 
be thrown around upon the table. There also seems 
to be some lack of consideration as to where the crowded 
bowl shall finally find a resting-place. Flowers, for 
the sake of flowers in a room, are not decorative. They 
are decorative when they are of the kind in colour, 


textural feeling and arrangement to harmonize with 
the place in which they are put; otherwise they are 
an unrelated element in the room. 

Vases, which are as attractive in themselves as flowers 
are by themselves, are bad decorative adjuncts. There 
is no better way to show flowers than to use them in 
glass vases, where their beautiful stems are as delightful 
as the flowers themselves. Use few in one place; care- 
fully select them as to kind; put them together well in 
the vase, and carefully place them with reference to 
their surroundings. This will give flowers a place in 
the scheme of interior decoration befitting their beauty 
and also respecting their nature quality. 

Somebody will ask: "What about china for a 
dining-room?" All the way along it has seemed easier 
to cite bad things in china than in any other medium. 
By this time it must be clear that even china must be 
subject to the same laws of selection as other articles of 
furnishing and fitting. 

When plain white china is used there can be no great 
discord. Plain white, however, does not always seem 
to be strong enough structurally for the scale of the 
table and other dining-room accessories. The struc- 
tural effect may be greatly strengthened and the dec- 
orative idea appear when a plain gilt band is used, or 
something so nearly approaching this that strengthen- 
ing of structure is the fundamental impression one re- 
ceives from it. 

Let us remember that china is no place to show pic- 
tures and that if pictures on dishes become more im- 
portant than the dishes themselves, the same conditions 
must obtain as those in which the picture frame is more 



important than the picture, or the carving on the chair 
more appealing than its proportion or the comfort 
derived from sitting in it. If flowers must be used in 
any other way than that described, their decorative 
material should be structurally applied, carefully 
censored as to amount, and the motifs so convention- 
alized that they are unquestionably "nature adapted 
to the material in which it is expressed." 

These simple details are submitted in a practical 
way that it may be clear to him who reads that the 
smallest detail is not unimportant in the final criticism 
of any room. This criticism must leave the mind 
convinced that the room is a unit: a unit, first, in its 
function idea perfectly expressed, and second, a unit in 
beauty of expression, no element of which can be taken 
from it, and to which no element can be added without 
destroying the fundamental idea. 

Every house ever built was really a period house. The 
modern American house, like any other period house, 
must, first of all, be considered with reference to the way 
in which it is to be used. Man now looks not to the 
past to find something to copy or to graft on to some 
irregular background as an adequate expression of 
modern life, neither is he satisfied with mere housing 
or sheltering qualities. The house appears to the 
educated thinking man as a necessity and as an en- 
vironment for mental comfort and natural growth. 

Decorators and owners alike are coming to see that 
life in this country is expressed in scientific terms; 
that with the present viewpoint, as a people we cannot 
develop a consciousness capable of feeling the art 
quality as did the Italians during the Renaissance 


period. Nor can we realize the imaginative possibilities 
in it as expressed in the Gothic period. They are seeing 
more surely the psychological relation between man 
and his works and the indisputable power of environ- 
ment in determining one's future efficiency. 

They are getting also nearer to the truth that prin- 
ciples are expressed in the language of colour and form 
as truly as they are in musical tones or through words 
or other symbols which express man's ideas. They 
are going to test the house, its furnishings, and its de- 
corations, by the common-sense standard of functional 
modern fitness as well as from the intellectual and emo- 
tional standpoint of beauty, realizing the power of 
beauty in life development. This opens a new chapter 
in the field of interior decoration. 

With these conditions in mind, every individual 
should approach his own problem. He will remember, 
then, that his house expresses himself, his intelligence, 
his ideas of art, his best conceptions of the aesthetic 
idea, and, so far as his means will allow, the qualities 
of materials which are best suited to fulfill this three- 
fold ideal. This viewpoint dignifies the personal idea 
and places it foremost in the consideration of the decora- 
tion of a modern house. In the next place he will con- 
sider carefully the individual function of every room 
and how he can most consistently express this func- 
tional idea. 

The geography of a house, and all it exacts, one's 
present incumbrances, their limitations and their pos- 
sibilities, together with the knowledge of periods and 
all that they imply, these are also considerations of 
importance to him who would realize the perfect ideal 



of the house, and each room in the house, as a personal 
creation and a form of self-expression. 

All this must be given in the language of colour, 
form, line and texture, governed by the principles 
which are the very structure of this language. Letting 
one's feelings and imagination be governed by his 
intelligence, the house will be sincere, consistent and 
suited to the person associated with it and living in it. 
It can be in this way no better, and should be no worse, 
than the individual whose personal creation it is. 





Adam brothers, Work of the, 204-205 

Aesthetic judgment, 13 

American colour feeling, 54 

American house, The modern, 272 

Anglo-Saxon simplicity, 172 

Anne of Austria, 143 

Anne, Period of Queen, see Queen Anne 


Antiquity not beauty, 14 
Arabesque ornament, 110 
Arcs of circle and ellipse, 65 
Area divisions, 74-76 
Arrangement, Taste in, 11 
Art, 13-15 
Art periods, 117-130 
Art periods, see also Periods 
Artistic homes no luxury, 227 
Artist's furnishings, The, 3 
Assyrian ornament, 111 
Astragal motif, 150 
Aunt Jane's table, 230 

Background, The, 32, 50-51, 229 
Backgrounds, A rule for, 40 
Backgrounds of Louis XIV period, 150 
Backgrounds of Louis XV period, 158 
Backgrounds of the Little Trianon, 166 
Bad taste, Conservative, 234 
Bad taste, Examples of, 232 
Bad taste, see also Taste 
Balance, 78-87 
Balance of shapes, 89 
Balance of sizes, 90 
Balance of textures, 90 
Banquet hall furniture, 178 
Baroque Henry IV period, 140 

Buckingham, Duke of, 143 

Beauty defined, 13, 14, 240 

Beauty and use, 8 

Bedroom wall papers, 245 

Bedrooms, 6 

Binary colours, 22 

Bird patterns, 11 

Bisymmetric balance experiments, 79- 


Black, 27, 37-38 

Black walnut period, 70, 216-219 
Blue, 24-25, 37 
Blue, see also Primary colours 
Boleyn, Anne, 176 
Book page margins, 76 
Bourgeois Henry IV period, 140 
Bric-a-brac, 236, 269-270 
British art, see English art 
Buff, see Yellow 
Building materials, 244 

"Cabinetmaker's and Upholsterer's 

Guide, The," 200 
Cabriole leg, The, 155, 190-191 
Carpets, 9, 218 
Carpets, see also Rugs 
Catherine de Medici, 137 
Ceiling colour, 30 

Ceiling, wall and floor, Law for, 33 
Chair design, 97-100 
Chan- placing, 60-61 
Chairs, Italian Renaissance, 36, 57 
Chairs of Louis XV, 159 
Chairs of Louis XVI, 69 
Cham, Tudor, 182 
Chambers, Sir William, 198 



Chandeliers, 266 

Charles II, 184 

Chimney piece, The, 10 

Chinaware, Good taste in, 271 

Chinese-Chippendale, 198 

Chinese pottery, Old, 269 

Chippendale, Work of Thomas, 196-199, 


Churches, see also Meeting-houses 
Circle arcs, 65 
City house, The, 22, 24, 243 
Classic art, True and false, 124 
Classic idea hi Louis XIV architecture, 


Classic motifs eliminated, 159 
Classic restoration, A, 164 
Clock, The Colonial, 214 
Collector's furnishings, The, 3 
Colonial style, The, 32, 181, 206-222 
Colour, 17-55, 88, 89, 151, 156, 162, 


Colour and light, 20 
Colour and personality, 249 
Colour and sound, 19 
Colour attraction, 88 
Colour little understood, 18 
Colour qualities, The three, 27-43 
Coloured objects, Arrangement of, 89 
Colours, Cool and warm, 28, 29, 50-51 
Colours of Louis XIV period, 151 
Colours of Louis XV period, 162-163 
Colours of the regency, 156 
Colour, see also Hue, Intensity, Value 
Commercial-social art influence, 121, 


Complementary colours, 38, 46-47 
Composition, 56, 95 
Connoisseur's rooms, The, 3 
Consciousness and the senses, 103 
Conservatism, Ill-judged, 234 
Consistency in Greek art, 123 
Consistent shapes and sizes, 63 
Consistent structural writing, 58 
Contrasts in size, 74 

Conventionalization defined, 111 
Conventionalizing necessary, 11 
Cool colours, 28 
Country houses, Red in, 24 
Country house, The, 243 
Cream, see Yellow 
Cromwellian furniture, 183 
Curtain hanging, 63, 260-262 
Curtain rods and rings, 261 
Curtains, Inner and outer, 260-261 
Curtains, see also Hangings 
Curved-line furniture, 69 
Curved lines, 64, 189, 219-220 

Decorating problem, 12 
Decorating trade, 233 
Decoration and ornamentation, 10 
Decoration and structure, 9-10 
Decoration fallacies, 4 
Decoration, Individualism in, 238-250 
Decoration, Intemperate, 161 
Decoration, Modern, 225-237 
Decoration, Reasonable, 5 
Decoration, Steps in tasteful, 229-237 
Decoration, What is, 14 
Decorative arrangement, 11 
Decorative period qualities, 118 
Decorators and personality, 248-250 
Decorator's opportunity. The, 228-231 
Decorator's stumbling blocks. The, 230- 


Democratic ideals and English art, 173 
Dentil motif, 150 
Design defined, 56 
Diane de Poitiers, 136 
Dining-rooms, 5 
Dishes, Flowered, 8 
Divisions, Mechanical and artistic, 73- 


Door casings, 9 
Drawing-rooms, 6 

Dutch Colonial, see Middle Colonial 
Dutch influence on Queen Anne period, 



Ecru, see Yellow 

Edict of Nantes, 139, 146 

Egg-and-art motif, 150 

Egyptian ornament, 110 

Elephant's breath, see Purple 

Ellipse arcs, 65 

Elizabethan style, Application of the, 


Elizabethan furniture, 177 
Elizabethan interiors, 177 
Elizabethan period, see also Tudor 


Elizabethan textiles, 179 
English art, 171-174 
English artistic feeling, 53 
English casement cloth, 262 
English idea of home, 174 
English individualism, 196 
English styles in America, 221 
Environment, Importance of, 227 

Facade study, 58-59 

"Feminine" colours, 54 

Feminine influence, see Women, Art for. 

Fitness in decoration, 8-9 

Fitness of art objects, 118 

Flemish curve, The, 155 

Flemish influence, 143, 182 

Flemish scroll, 160, 182 

Floor, ceiling and wall, Law for, 33 

Floor colour, 30 

Floor lines, 59 

Flower patterns, 11 

Flower selection and arrangement, 270 

Flowered furnishings, 8-9 

Flowers and personality, 250 

Form, Principles of, 56-77 

Forms, straight-line and curved-line, 66 

Frames for pictures, 253-256 

France, the home of Gothic, 131 

Francis I and his period, 132, 135 

Franklin, Benjamin, 213 

French artistic feeling, 53 

French influence on Colonial style, 213 

French Renaissance, 11, 128, 131-153 
French styles, 145-153 
French styles in America, 220 
Fruit patterns, 11 

Function idea dominates, 4-7, 239-240 
Furniture arrangement, 60-63, 87 
Furniture, "Black walnut," 70 
Furniture colour, 30 
Furniture, Elizabethan, 177 
Furniture, Italian Renaissance, 69 
Furniture, Mission, 70 
Furniture of Francis I, 136 
Furniture of Henry II, 137 
Furniture of Henry VII, 174 
Furniture of Louis XIV, 151 
Furniture of Louis XV, 69, 159 
Furniture of Louis XVI, 69, 166-167 
Furniture of New England, 209-210 
Furniture of Queen Anne, 190-192 
Furniture, Treatment of wood in, 165 
Furniture, Tudor, 182-183 
Furniture, see also Chippendale, Hepple- 
white, Sheraton 

"Gentleman's and Cabinetmaker's Di- 
rector, The," 197 

Geographical considerations important, 

Gilding woodwork, 264 

Gilt picture frames, 254-255 

Glazed furniture, 265 

Gold colour, 27 

Golden Mean, The, 73 

Good taste, see Bad taste and Taste, 

Gothic art, 125, 131 

Grain, The, in woodwork, 263 

Gravitation law and balance, 78 

Gray, The neutral, 21, 27 

Greek art intellectual, 72 

Greek consistency, 123 

Greek deduction, The, 73 

Greek idea, The, 121-124 

Greek ideals of beauty, 71-73 

Greek law, The, 73 



Greek law of areas, 76 

Greek moderation, 122 

Greek ornament, 110 

Greek simplicity and sincerity, 123 

Green, 25 

Green, see Binary colours 

Grill work, 70 

Hair flowers, 109 
Hanging pictures, 256-258 
Hangings, 34-35, 229, 258-263 
Hangings, see also Curtains 
Harmonious forms, 66 
Harmonious furnishing, 246 
Harmony in decoration, 18 
Harmony in picture selection, 252 
Harmony is beauty, 241 
Harmony of colours, 43-48 
Heirlooms, Tasteless, 230 
Hellenic, see Greek 
Henry II period, 136-137 
Henry IV period, 137-141 
Henry VII, Architecture of, 174 
Henry VIII and his period, 172, 173, 176 
Hepplewhite's style and ideals, 199-203 
Historic background of Colonial, 207 
Historic background of English art, 171 
Historic periods in art, 55, 117-130 
History expressed in art, 51, 118 
Holbein portraits, 178 
Home idea in England, 174 
House furnishing, Modern, 225-237 
House, The modern American, 272 
Houses not museums, 3 
Hue, a colour quality, 27-31 
Huguenots, The, 138, 146 
Humanistic influence, 126 

Ideal Proportion, The, 73 

Inconsistency, 100 

Indirect lighting system, The, 267 

Individualism in decoration, 238-250 

Individualism in England, 196 

Individual's colour needs, The, 47 


Individual's problem, The, 273 
Intensity, a colour quality, 37-^3 
"Interior decoration" misleading, 3 
Interior decoration, Modern, 225-237 
Interiors by the Adams brothers, 205 
Interiors, Elizabethan, 177 
Interiors, French, in America, 220 
Interiors of New England, 209 
Interiors, Tudor, 183 
Italian colour feeling, 52 
Italian influence in Henry VIII period, 


Italian influence in modern America, 222 
Italian Renaissance, 127, 132 
Italian Renaissance chairs, 36 
Italian Renaissance furniture, 36, 57, 69 

Jacobean period inspired Colonial, 181 
Jacobean period, see also Stuart period 
James I period, Restraint of, 180 
Japanese occult balance, 83 
Japanese prints, Frames for, 255 
Japanese restraint in picture, 253 
Japanese size feeling, 71 

Keying a colour, 29-31 

Lace curtains, 34-35 

Lafayette, Marquis de, 213 

Lamps and lamp shades, 267-268 

Landlords without taste, 232 

La Valliere, Madame de, 147 

Lavender, see Purple 

Lemon, see Yellow 

Leonardo's statement of proportion, 73 

Light and colour, 20 

Light-giving colours, 48-49 

Lighting arrangements, 266-269 

Lighting conditions, 244 

Lilac, see Purple 

Line harmony, 57 

Line simplification, 61 

Lines in good composition, 65 

Lines in rugs, 70 


Little Trianon, 165-166 

Living-rooms, 6 

London smoke, see Purple 

Louis XII, forerunner of French Renais- 
sance, 132 

Louis XIII, Period of, 142, 144 

Louis XIV, 119 

Louis XIV period, 119, 145-153 

Louis XIV rhythm, 100 

Louis XV furniture, 57, 69 

Louis XV period, The, 156-164 

Louis XV period and occult arrange- 
ment, 83 

Louis XV, Personality and court of, 157 

Louis XVI chairs, 69 

Louis XVI period, 164-169 

Louis XVI, Personality of, 165 

Louis XVI style influences Colonial, 213 

Louvre, The, 149 

Luminosity in colour, 48-49 

Magna Charta, 173 
Mahogany, Use of, 32, 189, 191 
Maintenon, Madame de, 147 
Marble-topped tables, 217 
Margins, Book-page, 76 
Marie Antoinette, 165-166, 213 
Marie de Medici, 138-140 
"Masculine" colours, 54 
Materialism of Louis XV period, 156 
Materials and patterns, 11 
Matted pictures, 36, 255-256 
Mazarin, Cardinal, 145 
Mauve, see Purple 
Medicis, The, see Catherine de Medici, 

and Marie de Medici 
Mediums, Harmony in picture, 252 
Meeting-houses of New England, 208 
Middle Colonial, 212 
Military formality of Louis XIV period, 


Mirrors, Colonial, 215 
Mirrors, Queen Anne, 192 
Mission style, 70 

Moderation in Greek art, 122 

Modern house, The, 225-237 

Mohammedan ornament, 110 

Montespan, Madame de, 146 

Motif scales, 113 

Motif badly combined, 112 

Motifs good and bad, 111 

Motifs: musical, literary and decorative, 


Motifs of Louis XIV, 150 
Motifs on gilt picture frames, 254 
Motifs, Restraint in use of, 113 
Mouldings of picture frames, 255 
Mount Vemon, 213 
Movement, 90-93, 96 
Museum house, The, 3 
Musical symbols, 17 

National feeling and colour, 52-55 
Naturalism, Decadent, 141 
Naturalism, Hellenic and humanistic, 


Naturalism not art, 11, 108 
Naturalistic motifs, 161 
Naturalistic ornament, 109 
Nature copying, 11 

Needlework of Queen Anne period, 192 
Neutral tones, 27 

Neutralization of colours, 38-39, 46 
New England Puritans, 207-211 
New Renaissance in America, 222 
Non-bisymmetric arrangement, 159 
"Normal colour," Meaning of, 27 
Northern Colonial, 208 
Northern house, The, 243 

Oblique lines, 91 
Oblongs and squares, 66 
Occult balance, 82-86, 159 
Orange, 25 

Orange, see also Binary colours 
Oriental rugs, 35-36 
Oriental rugs, see also Hugs 
Orientation, Problems of, 242 



Ornament, Abstract, 110 
Ornament must suit material, 11 
Ornament of Louis XVI, 167 
Ornament, Restraint in, 270 
Ornamentation and decoration, 10 
Oval curves, 65 

Painted woodwork, 264 

Paintings not art, 15 

Parlours of New England, The, 214 

Pattern must suit material, 11 

Period copyists, 235 

"Period" defined, 119 

Period pictures in period rooms, 252 

Periods, How to study, 119-120, 128- 


Periods in general, 117-130 
Periods of English art, 175 
Periods, The three stages of, 135 
Personality in decoration, 238-250 
Petit Trianon, see Little Trianon 
Photographs and personality, 250 
Photographs, Frames for, 255 
Piano placing, 87 
Picture composition, 95 
Picture frames, 253-256 
Picture hanging, 62-63, 93, 256-258 
Picture language, 17 
Picture mats, 36 

Picture mediums, Harmony in, 252 
Picture placing, 66-67, 68, 257 
Pictures in decorating, 251-258 
Pigments, 21 

Political art impulse, The, 121 
Pompadour, Madame de, 157 
Portiere hanging, 11 
Portieres, see also Hangings, Curtains 
Portraits, Elizabethan, 178 
Pottery of the regency, 156 
Pottery, Old Chinese, 269 
Primary colours, 21-25 
Printed linen of Louis XV, 162 
Proportion in High Greek period, 99 
Puritan influence on Tudor period, 185 

Puritans of New England, see New 

England Puritans 
Purple, 26-27 
Purple, see also Binary colours 

Queen Anne period, 186 

Red, 23-24 

Red, see also Primary colours 

Regency period, The, 154 

Religious art impulse, The, 120 

Renaissance chairs, 36 

Renaissance, French, 128, 131-153 

Renaissance influence, 11 

Renaissance, Italian, 127, 132 

Renaissance, see also New Renaissance 

Restfulness, 79, 81, 90-93 

Restraint of James I period, 181 

Rhythm in Louis XIV period, 100 

Richelieu, Cardinal, 143, 145 

Rocaille, 150, 160 

Rococo, 150, 155 

Roof design, Italian, 101 

Roses, Experiments with, 108 

Roses on the walls, 112 

Rubens, Paintings of, 140 

Rug colours, 30 

Rug design, 10, 94 

Rug placing, 59 

Rugs, 33-34, 42 

Rugs, Importance of, 229 

Rugs, Lines in, 70 

Rugs of black walnut period, 218 

Rugs, see also Carpets, Oriental rugs 

Scale, Importance of, 247 

Scale in motifs, 113 

Scale interpreted, 97 

Scroll motif, Italian, 150 

Second Renaissance, see New Renaih. 


See-saw and occult balance, 84 
Senses, The, and consciousness, 103 
Sensuousness of Louis XV period, 150 


Sentimental furnishings, 7, 230 

Separatists, 181, 206 

"Shade," Meaning of, 27 

Shades for lamps, 268 

Shell flowers, 109 

Shell motif, 150 

Sheraton, Style and work of, 202-204 

Size balance, 90 

Size consistency, 71 

Size contrast, 74 

Social idea and art, 121 

Sound and colour analogies, 19 

Sound symbols, 17 

Southern Colonial style, 211-212 

Southern house, The, 242 

Spanish colour feeling, 52 

Steelyards and occult balance, 84 

Straight-line furniture, 69 

Straight lines, 64 

Structural lines important, 16 

Structure determines form, 57 

Stuart period, 180-185 

Stuart period, see also Jacobean 

Table design, 100-102 
Table, Rug and cloth for, 71 
Tapestries, 111 

Tapestries of Henry II period, 136 
Tapestries of Louis XV period, 162 
Tapestry placing, 68 
Tapestry, see also Needlework 
Taste, Development of, 226 
Taste in arrangement, 11 
Taste, see also Bad taste 
Tasteful furnishings not costly, 228 
Tasteless articles, Disposal of, 231 
Tasteless articles in shops, 233 
Temperament and colour, 29 
Textiles, Elizabethan, 179 
Textiles of Henry H, 136 
Textiles of Louis XVI, 168 
Textiles of the regency, 156 
Textiles, Tudor, 184 
Textures, 103-107 

Textures, Balance of, 90 

Theatres, Elizabethan, 179 

"Tint," Meaning of, 27 

"Tone," Meaning of, 27 

Transitional styles, 186 

"Triad scheme" of colour harmony, 47 

Trim and wall colourings, 32 

Trim, Treatment of the, 265 

Tudor furniture, 182 

Tudor interiors, 183 

Tudor period, 175-179 

Tudor period, see also Elizabethan 

Twisted wood, Flemish, 182 

Unity in decoration, 272 
Upholstery, Colour of, 30 
Use and beauty, 8 

Value, a colour quality, 31-37 

Value scale, A, 31 

Varnished furniture, 265 

Vases and flowers, 271 

Vegetable patterns, 11 

Versailles, Court of, 146 

Versailles, Palace at, 148, 166 

Vertical oblongs, 66, 74 

Victorian era, see also Black walnut 


Vinci's rule of proportion, 73 
Violet, see Purple 

Wall, ceiling and floor, Law for, 33 

Wall colour, 30 

Wall decorative principles, 61 

Wall spacing, 68 

Wall paper, Choice of, 245 

Wall paper experiments, 41-42, 91-92 

Wall paper, Flowered, 9 

Wall paper, Unrestful, 94 

Walls and occult balance, 85-86 

Warm colours, 29 

Warm tones, 50-51 

Washington, George, 213 



Water colours. Frames for, 255 
Wax flowers, 109 
White, Stanford, 124 
White, a "neutral," 27 
William the Conqueror, 172 
William the Stadtholder, 187 
Window dressing, 40 
Window hangings, 11 
Window placing, 59 
Women, A style for, 146, 147 

Women and the French Renaissance, 


Wood carving of Henry II period, 136 
Wooden furniture, Treatment of, 265 
Woodwork, Colonial, 215-216 
Woodwork, Treatment of, 263-265 
Wren, Sir Christopher, 193 

Yellow, 22-23 

Yellow, see also Primary colours 







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